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Full text of "CMH Pub 5-8-1 The Approach To The Philippines"

UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The War in the Pacific 

THE APPROACH TO 
THE PHILIPPINES 



by 

Robert Ross Smith 




CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1996 



First Printed 1953— GMU Pub 5-8-1 



Foreword 



The Approach to the Philippines deals principally with lesser known but 
highly interesting amphibious and ground operations along the New Guinea coast 
during 1944 and also relates the Army's part in the conquest of the southern Palau 
Islands. Opening the way for the Allied invasion of the Philippine Islands in the 
fall of 1944, the operations described in this volume involved all the mechanics 
of modem warfare — the complexities of amphibious landings, carrier-based and 
land-based air support, infantry maneuver and small unit action, artillery support, 
logistics, tank and flame thrower action, troop leadership, medical problems, civil 
affairs, intelligence, and all the rest. While primarily a story of ground combat 
action, the volume describes the activities of the Army's supporting services in 
sufficient detail to complete the history of the ground operations. Navy, Army Air 
Forces, and Marine Corps activities are covered as necessary to provide a well- 
balanced picture, and enough strategic background material is included to fit the 
tactical narrative into its proper perspective in the global war. 

Mr. Robert Ross Smith, the author, has a B, A. and M- A. in history from 
Duke University, and he holds a Reserve commission as a Major of Infantry. 
A. graduate of the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., Mr. 
Smith served for two years during World War II as a member of the G 3 His- 
torical Division at General Douglas MacArthur's Allied Headquarters in the 
Southwest Pacific Area. Mr. Smith has been with the Office of the Chief of 




either as an officer on active duty or as a civilian, since January 



ORLANDO WARD 

Ma]. Gen., U. S. A. 
Chief of Military History. 

Washington, D. C. 
1 May 1952 



Author 

Robert Ross Smith received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Duke University. 
A graduate of the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, 
Mr. Smith served two years in the G— 3 Historical Division staff at General Mac- 
Arthur's headquarters in the Southwest Pacific. He joined the Center of Military 
History in 1947 and rose to the position of branch chief before retiring in 1983. 
He also served as chief historian of U.S. Army, Pacific, during an important phase 
of the Vietnam War. Mr. Smith has written many works on military history, includ- 
ing Triumph in the Philippines, another volume in the U.S. Army in World War 
II series. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. 



iv 



Preface 



This volume describes the operations of Allied forces in the Pacific theaters 
during the approach to the Philippines, April through October 1944. While this 
is essentially the story of U. S. Army ground combat operations during the 
approach, the activities of all ground, air, and naval forces are covered where 
necessary for the understanding of the Army ground narrative. Eight major and 
separate operations, all susceptible of subdivision into distinct phases, are described. 
Seven of these operations took place in the Southwest Pacific Area, while one — the 
Palau Islands operation — occurred in the Central Pacific Area. This series of 
actions is exceptional in that the operations were executed in such rapid succession 
that while one was being planned the height of combat was being reached in 
another and still others had entered the mopping-up stage. 

Because of the nature of the combat, the level of treatment in this volume is 
generally that of the regimental combat team — the infantry regiment with its 
supporting artillery, engineer, tank, medical, and other units. The majority of the 
actions described involved a series of separate operations by infantry regiments or 
regimental combat teams, since divisions seldom fought as integral units during the 
approach to the Philippines. Division headquarters, often assuming the role of a 
ground task force headquarters, co-ordinated and administered the ofttimes widely 
separated actions of the division's component parts. 

In accomplishing the research and writing for this volume, which was begun 
in the spring of 1947, the author had access to the records of the U. S. Army 
units involved in the approach to the Philippines. Records of the Combined and 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U. S. Army General Staff, the U. S. Navy and Marine 
Corps, the U. S. Air Force, and the Australian services were also made available 
to the author upon request. Principal Japanese sources employed were mono- 
graphs of Japanese operations prepared by former Japanese Army and Navy 
officers, beginning in late 1946, under the direction of the United States high 
command in Tokyo. 

Unlike most operations in the Central Pacific and in Europe, those of U. S. 
Army ground combat forces in the Southwest Pacific Area had no contemporary 
historical coverage during World War II. In the last-named theater, no teams 
of historians accompanied combat units to observe, collect materials, conduct 
interviews, and prepare preliminary historical manuscripts. Thus, the sections of 
this volume concerning operations in the Southwest Pacific Area are based prin- 
cipally upon the official unit records maintained during combat and, to a lesser 
extent, the unit After Action Reports required by Army regulations. For opera- 



v 



tions in the Palaus, there was available an incomplete manuscript covering part 
of the 81st Infantry Division's actions. This was prepared partly in the field and 
partly during a short tour of duty with the Historical Division, War Department 
General Staff, by Maj. Nelson L. Drummond, Jr. For operations of the 1st Marine 
Division in the Palaus, the author depended for the most part on Maj. Frank O. 
Hough's The Assault on Peleliu, an official publication of the Historical Division, 
Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps. 

It is manifestly impossible for the author to list all those who have aided or 
guided him during the preparation of this volume, but he must express his gratitude 
to those who have made especially notable contributions. 

Thanks are due the personnel of the Historical Records Section, Departmental 
Records Branch, Office of The Adjutant General, U. S. Army, especially Mr. 
Wilbur Nigh and Miss Thelma K. Yarborough, for their co-operation and patience 
in helping the author locate source material. For similar reasons thanks are due 
the members of the Organization Records Branch, Records Administration Center, 
Office of The Adjutant General. The author is also greatly indebted to Maj. 
Frank O- Hough (USMCR) of the Historical Division, Headquarters, U. S. 
Marine Corps; to Lt. Roger Pineau (USNR) of the Naval History Branch, Naval 
Records and History Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, U. S. 
Navy; to the personnel of the Naval Records and Library Branch of the same 
Division; to Capt. Bernhardt L. Mortensen (USAF) of the USAF History, Re- 
search, and Library Division, Air University Library, Air University, U. S. Air 
Force; to Flight Lt. Arthur L. Davies (RAAF) of the History Section, Head- 
quarters Royal Australian Air Force; and to the author's personal friend Capt. 
John Balfour (AIF) of the Office of the Official War Historian, Australia. The 
list would not be complete without mention of the time and patience of fifty-odd 
participating commanders who provided comments on all or parts of the manu- 
script and, finally, official reviews undertaken by members of the Historical 
Sections of the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U. S. Marine Corps, the U. S. Navy, 
the U. S. Air Force, and the Australian Army. 

Especial thanks are due Dr. John Miller, jr., during whose tenure as Chief 
of the Pacific Section, Office of the Chief of Military History, much of this volume 
was written, for his sound counsel and his careful reviewing o£ the final manu- 
script. For his excellent guidance and valuable advice, a great debt of gratitude 
is likewise owed Dr. Louis Morton, under whose direction as Chief of the Pacific 
Section preparation of this volume was begun and (upon his return to the section 
after a period of service as Deputy Chief Historian, Department of the Army) 
completed. The help and encouragement of Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief 
Historian, Department of the Army, is also keenly appreciated. The author is 
greatly indebted to the late Mr. W. Brooks Phillips of the Editorial Branch, Office 
of the Chief of Military History, who did the final editing, ably assisted by 
Mrs. Loretto Stevens and other members of the same branch. Mr. Leonard B. 
Lincoln prepared the index, and the painstaking task of final typing for the 

vi 



printer was in charge of Mrs. Lois Riley. The author acknowledges his indebted- 
ness to the many other members of the Office of the Chief of Military History 
(especially Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff, the Chief Cartographer, and his colleagues 
of the Cartographic Branch, as well as the members of the Photographic Branch), 
for the time and effort they expended during the preparation of the volume. 

Finally, the completion of the work would not have been possible without 
the support of Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, Chief of Military History, Department 
of the Army, and the military members of his staff who, understanding the 
problems of the historian, made the path smoother. 

ROBERT ROSS SMITH 

Washington, D. C. 
1 May 1952 



vii 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Contents 

Chapter Page 

I. THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 1 

Determining the Strategy of the Approach 1 

Acceleration of Pacific Operations in Early 1944 6 

The New Directive for 1944 11 

II. PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR THE HOLLANDIA- 

AITAPE OPERATION 13 

Theater Organization 14 

The Hollandia Area 16 

The Decision to Take Aitape 19 

The Forces and Their Missions 23 

Logistics 32 

The Hollandia Tactical Plan 42 

Preliminary Operations and the Approach 48 

III. THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 53 

The Landings at Tanahmerah Bay 53 

The 24th Division' s Drive to -the Airfields .... 59 

The Seizure of Hollandia Town 68 

The Drive Inland from Humboldt Bay 71 

Logistic Problems of the RECKLESS Task Force 77 

The End of the Operation 82 

IV. THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOL- 

LANDIA 84 

Strategy and Dispositions to April 1944 84 

The Japanese at Hollandia 95 

V. PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR ... 103 

Securing the Airfield Area 103 

Contact with the 18th Army on the East Flank 114 

VI. DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 131 

Reinforcement and Reorganization of the PERSECUTION Task 

Force 131 

Gathering Combat Intelligence 137 

The 18th Army Moves West 145 

VII. THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR, PHASE I: THE 18TH 

ARMY ATTACKS 152 

Withdrawal of the PERSECUTION Covering Force ....... 152 

Restoration of the Driniumor Line 1 58 

Operations West of the Driniumor 167 

The Japanese Attack on the South Flank 1 70 



xi 



Chapter Page 

VIII. THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR, PHASE II: THE 18TH 

ARMT RETREATS 177 

Securing the Afua Area 177 

Envelopment to the East 188 

The End of the Aitape Operation 200 

IX. THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 206 

The Sarmi—Biak Plan 206 

The Wakde Plan 212 

Preparations for the Capture of Wakde Island 218 

Small-Island Warfaie, Southwest Pacific Style 222 

X. LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 232 

The Japanese at Wakde-Sarmi 232 

The 158th Infantry Against Lone Tree Hill 236 

Final Operations of the 158th Infantry 253 

XI. LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 263 

The 6th Division Against Lone Tree Hill 263 

Final Operations in the Wakde— Sarmi Area 275 

The Results of the Wakde— Sa mi Operation 278 

XII. BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY . . . 280 

The Biak Plan 280 

The Landing 289 

The Japanese on Biak 299 

XIII WEST TO MOKMER DROME 304 

An Initial Reverse 304 

Preparations for a New Attack 312 

The Seizure of Mokmer Drome 316 

XIV. FRUSTRATION AT MOKMER DROME 326 

Reinforcements for the 186th Infantry 326 

Operations North of Mokmer Drome 331 

Allied Command at Biak 340 

XV. THE JAPANESE REINFORCE BIAK 346 

Biak and Japanese Naval Plans 346 

The KON Operation 350 

Results of the KON Operation 361 

XVI. BIAK: THE REDUCTION OF THE JAPANESE POCKETS . . 365 

The Reduction of the West Caves 365 

Securing the Western Area 377 

The Reduction of the East Caves 380 

The Reduction of the Ibdi Pocket 384 

The End of the Operation 390 

xii 



Chapter Page 

XVII. OPERATIONS ON NOEMFOOR ISLAND 397 

The Noemfoor Plan 397 

The Landing 406 

The Occupation of Noemfoor Island 416 

Base Development on Noemfoor 421 

XVIII. AIRFIELDS ON THE VOGELKOP PENINSULA 425 

Early Plans for the Vogelkop 425 

The Sansapor—Mar Plan 431 

Operations in the Sansapor—Mar Area 440 

XIX. THE PALAUS AND MOROTAI: STRATEGIC AND TACTI- 
CAL PLANNING 450 

The Strategic Setting 450 

The Objectives 456 

Organization, Tactics, and Logistics 463 

XX. THE MOROTAI OPERATION 480 

The Landing 480 

Securing and Developing Morotai 488 

XXL THE LANDINGS ON PELELIU AND ANGAUR 494 

Preliminary Air and Naval Bombardment 494 

The Peleliu Beachhead 496 

The Decision to Land on Angaur . . 498 

The Assault on Angaur 499 

Securing Southern Angaur 508 

XXII. THE REDUCTION OF NORTHWESTERN ANGAUR .... 515 

Into the Main Defenses 515 

Overcoming the Last Resistance 523 

Results of Operations on Angaur 530 

XXIII. SECURING PELELIU ISLAND 532 

Marine Operations in Southern Peleliu to 22 September 532 

Dividing the Island 536 

Northern Peleliu and the Offshore Islands 543 

XXIV. PELELIU: THE LAST RESISTANCE 551 

Compressing the Umurbrogol Pocket 551 

Entr'acte: The Relief of the 1st Marine Division 559 

Overcoming the Final Resistance 561 

Results of Operations in the Palaus 573 

CONCLUSION: THE RESULTS AND THE COSTS 576 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 579 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS 595 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 601 

INDEX 605 

xiii 



Tables 

No. Page 

1. American Casualties During the Approach to the Philippines: April- 

December 1944 577 

2. Japanese Casualties, Defending the Approaches to the Philippines: April- 

December 1944 578 

Charts 

1. Operational Organization of the Southwest Pacific Area: Aprill944 . . 15 

2. Air Organization for the Hollandia-Aitape Operations (Amphibious 

Phase) 25 

3. Naval Organization for the Hollandia-Aitape Operations (Amphibious 

Phase) 28 

4. Ground Organization for the Hollandia-Aitape Operations (Am- 

phibious Phase) 33 

5. Japanese Army Operational Organization in the Southwest Pacific 

Area: April 1944 94 

6. Japanese Naval Operational Organization in the Central and Southwest 

Pacific Areas: April 1944 96 

7. The Persecution Task Force : 22 April-4 May 1944 104 

8. The Persecution Task Force : 4 May-28 June 1944 115 

9 . The Persecution Task Force : 28 June-1 1 July 1 944 136 

10. The Persecution Task Force: 11 July-21 July 1944 160 

11. The Persecution Task Force: 22 July-30 July 1 944 175 

12. The Persecution Task Force: 31 July-11 August 1944 189 

13. The Persecution Task Force: 11 August-25 August 1944 203 

14. Organization for the Palau Operation 465 

Maps 

1. Situation in the Pacific, 12 March 1944 2 

2. Hollandia Operation Area 17 

3. Aitape Landings, 22 April 1944 106 

4. Yakamul Area 124 

5. Situation Along the Driniumor, Evening, 10 July 1944 141 

6. Japanese Plan of Attack, 10 July 1944 149 

7. Japanese Attack on Driniumor Line, Night, 10-11 July 1944 153 

8. The Ted Force Action, 31 July-10 August 1944 193 

9. Wakde-Sarmi Area 207 

10. Capture of Wakde Islands, 17-19 May 1944 223 

11. Advance to Lone Tree Hill, 23-26 May 1944 240 

12. Tornado Task Force, Night, 30-31 May 1944 254 

13. Schouten Islands 281 

xiv 



JVo. Page 

14. Bosnek-Sorido Coast 282 

15. Attack North of Mokmer Drome, 11-15 June 1944 333 

16. Securing the Airfields, 18-24 June 1944 370 

17. Capture of Noemfoor, 2 July- 31 August 1944 399 

18. Vogelkop Operation, 30 July-31 August 1944 431 

19. Palau Islands 458 

20. Morotai Landings, 15 September 1944 476 

21. Terrain of Umurbrogol Pocket 552 

22. Marines at Umurbrogol Pocket, 30 September-1 5 October 1944 .... 557 

23. 321st Infantry at Umurbrogol Pocket, 16-25 October 1944 562 

24. 323d Infantry at Umurbrogol Pocket, 26 October-27 November 1 944 . . 570 



Maps 1-IX are in accompanying map envelope 
I. New Guinea. 

II. The Hollandia Operation, 22-26 April 1944. 

III. Securing the Beachhead, 23 April-4 May 1944. 

IV. Lone Tree Hill. 

V. Biak Landings and Seizure of Mokmer Drome, 27 May-7 June 1944. 
VI. Assault on Peleliu, 15-23 September 1944. 
VII. Assault on Angaur, 1 7-20 September 1944. 
VIII. Reduction of Northwestern Angaur, 21 September- 1 October 1944. 
IX. Dividing the Island, 24-26 September 1944. 

Illustrations 



Lake Sentani Plain, Showing Airfield? 19 

Hollandia-Aitape Planners 30 

Humbolt Bay 44 

Tanahmerah Bay 46 

Damaged Japanese Airplanes 51 

Landings at Tanahmerah Bay 54 

Unloading LST's 57 

Hand-Carrying Supplies 63 

General Douglas MacArthur 69 

LVT's Crossing Lake Sentani 75 

Troops Unloading Supplies at Aitape 109 

Yakamul Area 124 

Tadji Fighter Strip 129 

Driniumor River 142 

Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi 146 

The Afua Area 178 

Artillery Supporting Ted Force 198 

Native Litter Bearers 201 



XV 



Page 

Brig. Gen. Jens A. Doe 220 

The Assault on Wakde Island 225 

Enemy Defensive Positions on Wakde 229 

LCM Ferry 253 

Mokmer Drome, Biak 288 

Biak Coast Line 292 

Unloading at Biak 298 

East Caves Area 305 

Scene of Tank Battle 308 

The Parai Defile 314 

Men of the 162d Infantry Seeking Cover 331 

Disabled Japanese Tank 339 

Infantrymen Moving Up to Attack 367 

Entrances to the West Caves 376 

Entrance to the East Caves 383 

Dock Area, Biak 394 

Base H and Hospital Areas on Biak 395 

DUKW Burning on the Beach at Noemfoor 410 

Paratroopers Landing on Noemfoor 414 

Sansapor Planners 435 

Bulldozer Clearing Jungle Undergrowth 448 

Maj. Gen. Paul J. Mueller 467 

LCPs at Morotai 484 

Unloading at Morotai 486 

Red Beach Unloading Operations 502 

Saipan Town Area 506 

Entrance to Lake Salome Bowl 520 

Interior of Lake Salome Bowl 525 

Mopping Up in Northwest Angaur 528 

Southeast Corner of Umurbrogol Pocket 554 

L VT Flame Thrower in Action 564 

Moving into Mortimer Valley 568 

Peleliu 574 

The illustration on p. 146 is an Australian War Memorial photograph. All 
other illustrations in this volume are from the files of the Department of Defense. 



xvi 



CHAPTER I 



The Strategic Background 



In March 1944 the U. S. Joint Chiefs of 
Staff directed Allied forces in the Pacific to 
begin an offensive toward the Philippine 
Islands. Recapture of the Philippines would 
be a profoundly important step toward the 
defeat of Japan, for from those islands the 
Allies could cut Japanese lines of communi- 
cation to the rich, conquered territory of the 
Netherlands East Indies, Indochina, Thai- 
land, Burma, and Malaya. In the Philip- 
pines the Allies could also establish bases 
from which to support subsequent advances 
against Formosa, the China coast, or Japan 
itself. 

Before March 1944 the objectives of oper- 
ations in the Pacific had been limited to 
securing the lines of communication from 
the United States to Australia, beginning an 
attack across the Central Pacific, and oc- 
cupying bases from which to launch future 
operations. During these operations Allied 
forces of General Douglas MacArthur's 
Southwest Pacific Area had secured eastern 
New Guinea, western New Britain, and the 
Admiralty Islands, joining with the drive of 
Admiral William F. Halsey's South Pacific 
Area forces up the Solomon Islands in a 
campaign to neutralize the great Japanese 
base at Rabaul. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz 
had begun an offensive in his Central Pacific 
Area late in 1943 ; by March 1944 his forces 
had driven through the Gilbert Islands into 
the Marshalls. Now the war in the Pacific 
was ready to enter a more decisive stage, as 



the various land, sea, and air forces under 
General Mac Arthur and Admiral Nimitz 
attacked toward the Philippines from the 
bases already in Allied hands. 

The offensive toward the Philippines 
would have to be undertaken with relatively 
limited means. The U.S. -British Combined 
Chiefs of Staff, subject to whose approval the 
U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the war 
in the Pacific, had from the first assigned 
priority in the global war to the defeat of 
Germany. 

Determining the Strategy of the Approach 

In May 1943 the Joint Chiefs of Staff se- 
cured approval from the Combined Chiefs 
for a course of action providing that the 
main offensive against Japan would be con- 
ducted across the Pacific, as opposed to ad- 
vances from the Aleutians, Southeast Asia, 
or China. The Joint Chiefs decided that the 
seizure of a foothold in the Philippines would 
be necessary before any subsequent opera- 
tions against Japan or her holdings could be 
launched. To the Joint Chiefs, there were 
two practicable routes of approach to the 
Philippines. One was across the Central Pa- 
cific via the Marshalls, Carolines, and Pa- 
laus ; the other in the Southwest Pacific along 
the north coast of New Guinea and into the 
islands between northwestern New Guinea 
and Mindanao, southernmost large island 
of the Philippine Archipelago. The choice of 




MAP 1 



THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 



3 



routes and the direction and objectives of 
amphibious offensives in both the Central 
and Southwest Pacific Areas were not de- 
termined without a great deal of discussion 
at the highest levels of United States com- 
mand. 1 

General MacArthur 's Concepts 

General MacArthur, who upon orders 
from the President had left the Philippines 
in early 1942, had a burning determination 
to return to those islands as soon as possible. 
He favored the New Guinea— Mindanao 
axis of advance to the Philippines. Almost 
as soon as he assumed his new command in 
the Southwest Pacific Area he began think- 
ing about moving back to the Philippines 
by means of a scries of amphibious opera- 
tions along the north coast of New Guinea. 2 
He envisaged this campaign as entailing a 
steady advance of the Southwest Pacific's 
land-based bomber line northwestward to 
the Philippines by the successive seizure of 

1 JPS 67/4, 29 Apr 43; JPS 67/5, 26 May 43; 
JCS 287, 7 May 43; JCS 287/1, 8 May 43. All en- 
titled Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan, and all 
in OPD file, ABC 381 Japan (8-27-42) Sees. 1 and 
2. Min, JCS 76th and 80th Mtgs, 8 and 12 May 43; 
CCS 220, 14 May 43, Strategic Plan for the Defeat 
of Japan, and CCS 242/6, 25 May 43, Final Report 
to the President and Prime Minister, Trident Con- 
ference, last two in OPD file, bound volume of 
Trident [Washington, D. C] Papers, Bound folders 
containing minutes of meetings of the CCS, JCS, 
and their subordinate committees are filed in the 
office of ACofS, G-3, GSUSA. 

2 Ltr, CofS GHQ SWPA to Comdrs Allied Land, 
Air, and Naval Forces SWPA (n. d., circa 13 May 
42), sub: Preparations for the CounterofTensive, 
copy atchd as Incl 3 to Ltr, Maj Gen Charles A. 
Willoughby [ACofS G-2 GHQ FEC] to Maj Gen 
Orlando Ward [Chief of Military History, Dept of 
the Army] (n. d., circa 10 Mar 51), in OCMH 
files. For 1941-42 operations in the Philippines and 
General MacArthur's departure from those islands, 
see Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, a 
forthcoming volume in the series, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. 



air-base sites along the 1,400-mile north 
coast of New Guinea. General MacArthur 
realized that once his forces began pushing 
on to the Philippines from the Vogelkop 
Peninsula of northwestern New Guinea they 
would present vulnerable flanks to Japanese 
air and sea power based in the Palau Islands 
to the right ( north ) and in the Netherlands 
East Indies to the left. He said, however, 
that the advance along the New Guinea 
coast as far as the Vogelkop could not be 
endangered by hostile air attacks from the 
Marshall or Caroline Islands to the north, 
that it would take "full advantage of land- 
based air power" and could be "fully pro- 
tected by naval power." 

Beyond the Vogelkop the Allied left 
w r ould be protected by land-based aircraft 
flying from fields which would be established 
on islands between New Guinea and the 
southern Philippines. The right flank could 
be safeguarded by the occupation of the 
Palau Islands or by operations of the U. S. 
Pacific Fleet, the strategic missions of which, 
General MacArthur averred, were to pro- 
tect his right flank and destroy or contain 
the Japanese fleet. Finally, he said, the ad- 
vance along the north coast of New Guinea 
could most quickly achieve one important 
strategic objective — cutting the Japanese 
lines of communication to the Indies. 3 

On the other hand, declared General 
MacArthur, an advance toward the Philip- 
pines through the Central Pacific, via the 

3 GHQ SWPA, Estimate of the Situation and 
Rough Draft, Reno Plan, 25 Feb 43, photostat copy 
in OCMH files; Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C- 
3302, 20 Jun 43, CM-IN 13149; Rad, CINCSWPA 
to CofS, C-1217, 2 Feb 44, CM-IN 1443. The quo- 
tations are from the Reno plan, hereafter cited as 
Reno I. CM-IN and CM-OUT numbers used in 
the footnotes of this volume refer to numbers ap- 
pearing on copies of those messages in Gen. George 
C. Marshall's In and Out Logs, filed in the Staff 
Communications Office, Office of the Chief of Staff, 
U. S. Army. 



4 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Marshall and Caroline Islands, would have 
to be undertaken without any land-based air 
support. Such a course of action would "be 
time consuming and expensive in . . . 
naval power and shipping." It would "re- 
quire a reorientation of front" from that al- 
ready established in the South and South- 
west Pacific Areas during operations aimed 
at the reduction of Rabaul. It could gain no 
important strategic objectives, in General 
MacArthur's opinion, until a series of am- 
phibious frontal assaults on small, fortified 
islands brought Allied forces finally to Min- 
danao in the southern Philippines. Finally, 
he argued, the concept of an advance 
through the Central Pacific was a return to 
the prewar plans, which, he declared, had 
not been premised on the availability of Aus- 
tralia as a base for offensive operations. 4 

For a time General MacArthur's plans 
for the approach to the Philippines via the 
southern route called for the seizure of the 
Hansa Bay area of northeastern New Guinea 
as the first step of the drive to the Philippines 
and the last of the campaign for the reduc- 
tion of Rabaul. Next, the forces of the South- 
west Pacific would jump approximately 275 
miles northwest to establish air and logistic 
bases at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, by- 
passing a Japanese stronghold at Wewak. 
Then General MacArthur intended to move 
on to the Geelvink Bay and Vogelkop Penin- 
sula regions of western Dutch New Guinea. 
Following these operations, airfield sites on 
Halmahera or the Celebes, lying between the 
Vogelkop and Mindanao, would be seized. 
If necessary for additional left flank protec- 
tion, air bases would also be established on 
the islands of the Arafura Sea (south of 
western New Guinea ) , simultaneously with 

* Reno I, 25 Feb 43; Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, 
C-3302, 20 Jun 43, CM-IN 13149. The quotations 
are from Reno I. 



the advance to Hollandia, and on Ambon 
Island (south of the Halmaheras ) ." 

The Joint Chiefs' Strategic Plans 

General MacArthur's concept of the best 
course of action in the Pacific did not coin- 
cide with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
who had decided that an advance via the 
Central Pacific would be strategically more 
decisive. The Joint Chiefs concluded that 
pressure applied on the Central Pacific front 
would bear directly on Japan's most vulner- 
able flank — the east — and would, indeed, 
outflank the enemy's positions in New 
Guinea. But operations along the New 
Guinea coast could not threaten Japan's 
bases in the Central Pacific and would not 
impair free movement by the Japanese 
Navy. 

The Joint Chiefs believed that the U. S. 
Pacific Fleet (commanded by Admiral 
Nimitz in addition to his area command) 
could be used to best advantage in the vast 
open reaches of the Central Pacific. Should 
naval operations in the Pacific precipitate 
an overwhelming defeat of the Japanese 
Navy, the Allies might be provided with an 
opportunity to bypass intermediate objec- 
tives and to strike directly against the Japa- 
nese home islands. Moreover, a drive 
through the Central Pacific would take ad- 
vantage of rapidly growing American naval 
power, with which it might be found easier 
to move into the Philippines from the Cen- 
tral rather than the Southwest Pacific. 



"Reno I, 25 Feb 43; GHQ SWPA, Reno III, 
Outline Plan of Operations in the Southwest Pacific 
Area to Reoccupy the Southern Philippine Islands, 
20 Oct 43, in OPD file, ABC 384 Pacific, Sec. 8-A ; 
Rad, CofS to CINCSWPA, 3406, 24 Jan 44, CM- 
OUT 9451; GHQ SWPA, Reno IV, Outline Plan 
for Operations of the SWPA 1944, 6 Mar 44, in 
OPD file, ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43) Sec. 3-A. 



THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 



5 



Logistically, the Joint Chiefs believed that 
the Central Pacific route of approach to the 
Philippines was preferable because it was 
shorter and more direct. In opposition to 
General MacArthur's views, the Joint Chiefs 
felt that the longer Southwest Pacific route 
would be more costly in terms of money, 
men, aircraft, time, and ships. The Central 
Pacific route was also better hygienically — 
it would entail far less jungle and swamp 
warfare with attendant tropical diseases 
than would operations in New Guinea. 
Finally, there was a practical limit to the 
Japanese air and ground strength which 
could be deployed on the small islands of the 
Central Pacific. On the other hand, the 
Japanese could place men and aircraft on 
New Guinea and the islands between the 
Vogelkop Peninsula and Mindanao in num- 
bers limited only by the availability of 
troops, engineering equipment, ships, and 
planes. 6 

Another factor destined to influence the 
Joint Chiefs in placing emphasis on the Cen- 
tral Pacific offensive was the potential of the 
Army Air Forces' new offensive weapon, the 
huge B-29 bomber. Though the Joint 
Chiefs' plans for the defeat of Japan called 
for large-scale bombing of the Japanese 
home islands from China, as early as No- 
vember 1 943 there was some doubt that the 
Chinese armies under Generalissimo Chiang 
Kai-shek could hold eastern China fields 
from which the B-29's would operate. Cer- 
tainly the initiation of B-29 operations from 
those fields would prompt the Japanese to 
launch ground offensives to capture the air 
bases. 

But, should the Allies secure air-base sites 
in the Mariana Islands, lying in the Central 

'JPS 67/4, 28 Apr 43; JPS 67/5, 26 May 43; 
JCS 287, 7 May 43; JCS 287/1; Rad, CofS (for 
JCS) to CINCSWPA, 8679, 2 Oct 43, CM-OUT 
630. 



Pacific less than 1,500 miles from Tokyo, the 
B-29's would be provided with bases which 
the Japanese could not retake. The Army 
Air Forces was therefore eager for the cap- 
ture of the Marianas. The air planners found 
a strong advocate for the early seizure of the 
Marianas in Admiral Ernest J. King (Chief 
of Naval Operations and Commander in 
Chief of the U. S. Fleet), Navy representa- 
tive on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral 
King repeatedly termed the occupation of 
the Marianas a key operation in the success- 
ful prosecution of the war against Japan, 
since an invasion of those islands, in his opin- 
ion, might well precipitate a showdown 
battle with the Japanese Fleet and would 
open a line of advance aimed directly at 
Japan. 7 

Though the Joint Chiefs believed that the 
Central Pacific route of advance was strate- 
gically, logistically, and tactically better than 
the Southwest Pacific route, they also de- 
cided that it would be most wasteful of time 
and resources to move all the Allied forces 
from the Southwest and South Pacific Areas 
out of the firm contact with the Japanese 
established during the campaign for the re- 
duction of Rabaul. The Joint Chiefs held 
that the employment of both routes would 
prevent the Japanese from knowing where 
and when the next blow was to fall. It was 
also believed that the Australian Govern- 
ment would react unfavorably to redirection 
of all Allied effort to the Central Pacific. If 
the Southwest Pacific offensive were cur- 
tailed, Australia might well let down in its 
war effort, an action which would result in 

T Min, JPS 109th Mtg, 27 0ct43;Min, JCS 123d 
and 124th Mtgs, 15 and 17 Nov 43, respectively; 
General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold, Glqbal 
Mission (New York, 1949), pp. 476-80. For addi- 
tional material upon the selection of the Marianas 
as an objective and for coverage of the fighting in 
those islands, see Philip A. Crovvl, Campaign in the 
Marianas, another forthcoming volume in this series. 



6 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



a drag on all operations throughout the 
Pacific. 

In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff de- 
cided that the approach to the Philippines 
would be made through both the Central 
and Southwest Pacific Areas, with priority 
assigned to the Central Pacific since that ap- 
proach appeared strategically more decisive. 
Central Pacific forces would move toward 
the Philippines via the Marshalls, Carolines, 
and Palaus, while Southwest Pacific forces 
would drive up the northern New Guinea 
coast and on into the islands between the 
Vogelkop Peninsula and Mindanao. 8 In ac- 
cordance with this concept Admiral Nimitz' 
forces, in November 1943, had taken the 
first step toward opening the drive across the 
Centra] Pacific by seizing air and naval base 
sites in the Gilbert Islands. This operation 
was a preliminary to the occupation of the 
Marshalls, to begin early in 1944. 

Acceleration of Pacific Operations in 
Early 1944 

The Marshalls, Truk, and 
the Admiralties 

In January 1944 Admiral Nimitz was 
planning to move his Central Pacific forces 
into the eastern and central Marshalls by the 
end of the month. Late in March he would 
execute a much-desired carrier strike against 
Truk, a presumably strong Japanese base 
near the center of the Caroline chain. 
Whether Truk would be seized was still a 
moot question. Although the capture of that 
atoll might well precipitate a showdown bat- 
tle with the Japanese Fleet, the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff had begun to wonder if the seizure of 

8 JPS 67/5, 26 May 43; JCS 287/1, 8 May 43; 
Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-6131, 28 Sep 43, 
CM-IN 19656; Rad, CofS to CINCSWPA, 8679, 
2 Oct 43, CM-OUT 630. 



Truk might not prove too costly for the re- 
sults achieved. They agreed in late 1943 to 
postpone a decision concerning its capture 
until the U. S. Pacific Fleet could test the 
strength of the base in a carrier raid. 9 

In May, according to Admiral Nimitz' 
plans, the Central Pacific's amphibious as- 
sault forces would advance to the western 
Marshalls. On 1 August they would land at 
Mortlock and Truk in the Central Caro- 
lines. If, however, the invasion of Truk 
should prove cither unnecessary or undesir- 
able, then Admiral Nimitz would be pre- 
pared to bypass that atoll in favor of a direct 
move to the Palau Islands about 1 August. 
First landings in the Marianas were to take 
place by 1 November. 10 

At the time Admiral Nimitz prepared this 
plan, General MacArthur's planners were 
trying to find ways and means to accelerate 
the final phases of the campaign against 
Rabaul: the capture of Hansa Bay on the 
northeast coast of New Guinea, the occupa- 
tion of the Admiralty Islands, and the seiz- 
ure of Kavieng, on New Ireland north of 
Rabaul. To fit in with Admiral Nimitz' plans 
for the use of the Pacific Fleet's carriers dur- 
ing the invasion of the Marshalls and the 
strike against Truk, General MacArthur had 
had to schedule the attacks against Kavieng 
and the Admiralties for 1 April and the 
Hansa Bay operation for 26 April. For post- 
Hansa Bay operations, General MacArthur's 
current plans called for the advance to Hol- 
landia and the Arafura Sea islands about 1 
June ; the Geelvink Bay area in mid-August ; 
the Vogelkop Peninsula by 1 October; Hal- 
mahera and the Celebes on 1 December; 
and, finally, an entry into the southern Phil- 

CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Campaign Plan Gran- 
ite, 13 Jan 44, in files of the Navy Dept; Min, JCS 
123d and 124th Mtgs, 15 and 17 Nov 43. 

"CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Campaign Plan Gran- 
ite, 13 Jan 44. 



THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 



7 



ippines at Mindanao on 1 February 1945. 
This schedule was slower than one approved 
by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in late 
1943 ; but if the Southwest Pacific could ac- 
celerate the last phases of the reduction of 
Rabaul, all subsequent operations could be 
considerably speeded. 11 

Principally to settle details of fleet support 
for the Admiralties, Kavieng, and Hansa 
Bay operations, planners of the South, 
Southwest, and Central Pacific Areas met at 
Pearl Harbor on 27 and 28 January 1944. 12 
The planners also discussed in a general way 
the question of bypassing Truk, the target 
dates for other operations in the Pacific, and 

"Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-164, 6 Jan 44, 
CM-IN 3366; Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-172, 6 
Jan 44, CM-IN 4188; Rad, CINCPOA to CINC- 
SWPA, 7 Jan 44, CM-IN 8330; Rad, COMSOPAC- 
ADMIN to COMSOPAC [Admiral Halsey, then in 
Washington], 8 Jan 44, CM-IN 8331 : Rad, CINC- 
SWPA to CofS, G 1217, 2 Feb 44, CM-IN 1443; 
Reno III, 20 Oct 43. For earlier operations in the 
South and Southwest Pacific Areas see John Miller, 
jr., Guadalcanal: The First Offensive (Washington, 
1949) and Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua, both 
in this series, the latter in preparation. These two 
volumes provide information concerning the estab- 
lishment of the Allied commands in the Pacific and 
the assignment of the first mission to the Allied 
forces. The campaign against Rabaul is to be cov- 
ered in John Miller, jr., Cartwheel: The Reduc- 
tion of Rabaul, while operations in the Gilberts and 
Marshalls are to be described in Philip A. Crowl and 
Edmund G. Love, The Seizure of the Gilberts and 
Marshalls, both in this series. 

13 The following information on the Pearl Harbor 
Conference and General MacArthur's views on the 
use of the B-29 is based principally upon: Rad, 
CINCPOA to CINCSWPA, 7 Jan 44, CM-IN 8330; 
Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-1217, 2 Feb 44, CM- 
IN 1443; Memo, Col William L. Ritchie [Chief, 
SWP Theater Group, OPD GSUSA] to Maj Gen 
Thomas T. Handy [Chief, OPD], 4 Feb 44, sub: 
Briefof Pacific Conf, Pearl Harbor, 27-28 Jan 44, in 
OPD file, ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43) Sec. 3-A; 
Min, JPS 125th Mtg, 2 Feb 44; Min, JCS 145th 
Mtg, 8 Feb 44; History of AFMIDPAC and Pred- 
ecessor Commands, I, 90ff, in OCMH; General 
George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports (New 
York, 1949), pp. 347-49. 



the proposed B-29 bases in the Marianas. 
Admiral Nimitz presented revised plans call- 
ing for the invasion of the eastern and cen- 
tral Marshalls on 1 February and the west- 
ern Marshalls on 15 April. He also suggested 
possible revisions in his schedule of opera- 
tions against the Palaus, the Marianas, and 
Truk. Previously he had planned to take the 
Palaus before the Marianas, and he had 
believed it essential to seize Truk as an ad- 
vanced fleet base. Now the Central Pacific 
commander thought that if the proposed 
carrier strike against Truk drove the Japa- 
nese fleet westward, it might be possible to 
bypass Truk, seize the Marianas about 15 
June, and move to the Palaus early in 
October. 

Most of the Army and Navy planners at 
the January conferences favored the idea of 
bypassing Truk. Apparently the majority of 
them also favored bypassing the Marianas, 
and the consensus at Pearl Harbor seemed to 
lean toward a sequence of operations which 
would place the emphasis of the drive to the 
Philippines in the Southwest Pacific Area. 
All the planners agreed that the Palaus 
would have to be taken to safeguard the 
right flank of the Southwest Pacific's ad- 
vance beyond the Vogelkop Peninsula to 
Mindanao in the Philippines. Most of them 
approved a course of action which would 
take Central Pacific forces directly from the 
Marshalls to the Palaus and provide the 
Southwest Pacific Area with sufficient sup- 
port to move up the north coast of New 
Guinea and into the Philippines well before 
the end of 1944. 

As far as B 29 operations against the 
Japanese home islands from the Marianas 
were concerned, there seems to have been a 
lack of enthusiasm at the Pearl Harbor con- 
ferences. General MacArthur's planners, 
taking their cue from their commander, de- 



8 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sired that the B-29's be sent to the South- 
west Pacific, whence they could strike 
lucrative targets in the Netherlands East 
Indies. General MacArthur's opinion was 
that B-29 operations against Japan from 
the Marianas would obtain negligible stra- 
tegic and tactical effects, that operating 
hazards from the Mariana bases would be 
great, and that logistic support of the B-29's 
in the Marianas would be much more diffi- 
cult than it would be in the Southwest 
Pacific. 

While it is noteworthy that both Army 
and Navy planners of the Pacific commands 
were, in January 1944, inclined to take issue 
with the Combined and Joint Chiefs of 
Staff over the emphasis on lines of advance 
toward the Philippines and the seizure of the 
Marianas, the higher level planners had 
already decided that the Marianas would be 
seized, that B-29 operations from those 
islands would start in 1944, and that the 
priority of the advance to the Philippines 
would be given to the Central Pacific. In- 
deed, so important did the Joint Chiefs con- 
sider operations in the Central Pacific that 
they were willing to delay beyond 1 April 
1944 General MacArthur's attacks against 
Kavieng and the Admiralties if such a delay 
would make it possible to accelerate Admiral 
Nimitz' advances in the Marshall Islands. 18 
Such a delay would, of course, probably 
mean the postponement of subsequent 
Southwest Pacific operations along the New 
Guinea coast. 

As events turned out, the strehgth of Cen- 
tral Pacific forces used to invade the eastern 
and central Marshalls on 3 1 January proved 
so preponderant and Japanese resistance 
and reactions so weak that Admiral Nimitz' 

"Rad, GOMINCH to CINCPOA, 2 Feb 44, 
CM-IN 1854. 



reserves and garrison forces, already staging 
for the eastern Marshalls, did not have to be 
committed to that operation. The Central 
Pacific commander, urged on by the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, was therefore able to step up 
his attack into the western Marshalls to mid- 
February. The Joint Chiefs also instructed 
Admiral Nimitz to execute the scheduled 
March carrier strike against Truk as much 
earlier as possible. 14 

A successful invasion of the western Mar- 
shalls was carried out on 1 7 February 1944. 
To support and provide strategic cover for 
this operation, the long-awaited carrier strike 
on Truk was made on the 16th and 17th. 
During the ensuing week other targets in the 
Carolines were hit and a one-day carrier at- 
tack against the Marianas was also under- 
taken. Evaluation of the Truk strikes dis- 
closed that the base was much weaker than 
had previously been supposed. The main 
body of the Japanese Fleet had already left 
the atoll and the threat of additional attacks 
by the U. S. Pacific Fleet kept it in the west- 
ern Pacific. Truk and the eastern Carolines 
were eliminated as an effective section of the 
Japanese defense system. 15 

While the strikes against the Carolines 
and Marianas had been taking place in the 
Central Pacific, preparations for the sched- 
uled Admiralties, Kavieng, and Hansa Bay 
operations had been going on apace in the 
Southwest Pacific. Troop units were desig- 
nated and preliminary steps were taken to 
gather supplies, shipping, and personnel at 

"■Ibid.; Rad, CINCPOA to COMINCH, 2 Feb 
44, CM-IN 1855; Min, JCS 145th Mtg, 8 Feb 44; 
Rad, CINCPOA to COMINCH, 15 Feb 44, CM-IN 
10592. 

15 United States Strategic Bombing Survey 
[USSBS], The Campaigns in the Pacific War (Wash- 
ington, 1946), pp. 194-95; Crowl and Love, The 
Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, passim. 



THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 



9 



staging areas. 16 These preparations were 
never completed. 

From 300-mile distant airfields in New 
Guinea, Southwest Pacific land-based 
planes had for some time been flying bomb- 
ing and reconnaissance missions against the 
Admiralty Islands. On 23 February planes 
on armed reconnaissance over the Admiral- 
ties failed to elicit any response from Japa- 
nese ground defenses. The next day General 
MacArthur ordered an immediate ground 
reconnaissance in force to be sent to the 
Admiralties aboard high speed destroyer- 
transports ( APD's) . The troops of the U. S. 
1st Cavalry Division engaged in this risky 
undertaking were instructed to remain 
ashore and secure a beachhead upon which 
reinforcements could be landed. The initial 
landings were made on 29 February. The 
desired beachhead was taken and the assault 
units were reinforced beginning on 2 March 
by the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division. 17 

The landing in the Admiralties, taking 
place a month ahead of schedule, gave Gen- 
eral MacArthur a welcome opportunity to 
speed the pace of operations within the 
Southwest Pacific Area and to keep abreast 
of developments in the Central Pacific Area. 
On 5 March he proposed a new plan of 
operations to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He 
suggested that the Kavieng operation be 
executed as planned on 1 April but, since 
aircraft from the Admiralties could support 
operations along the New Guinea coast, that 
the Hansa Bay operations be canceled in 
favor of a direct jump to Hollandia before 
the end of April. 

"GHQ SWPA, Operations Instructions (OI) 44, 
13 Feb 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 13 Feb 44. 

"Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo Force, XC-1428, 
24 Feb 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 24 Feb 44; GHQ 
SWPA, OI 44/2, 19 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 13 
Feb 44. For details of operations in the Admiralties 
see Miller, Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul. 



The bypassing move to Hollandia would 
isolate Japanese ground troops in the Hansa 
Bay, Madang, and Wewak areas of eastern 
New Guinea. Moreover, the Hollandia area 
was considered capable of development into 
a major air base from which land-based 
planes could dominate western New Guinea 
where the Japanese were building up their 
own air strength. If Hollandia could be 
seized at an early date, General MacArthur 
reasoned, this Japanese air redeployment 
could be forestalled and the westward ad- 
vance toward the Philippines could be has- 
tened by several months. 18 

Washington Planning Conferences, 
February-March 

The acceleration of the Marshall and Ad- 
miralty operations made it urgent that the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff issue a detailed direc- 
tive for the conduct of the war in the Pacific 
during the rest of 1944. They now had Gen- 
eral MacArthur's proposals to consider, as 
well as new plans being prepared by Admiral 
Nimitz, and they had yet to decide the ques- 
tion of bypassing Truk. Early in February 
General MacArthur had sent his chief of 
staff, Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, to 
Washington in an attempt to persuade the 
Joint Chiefs to direct the concentration of 
all forces in the Pacific along the New 
Guinea axis of advance, bypassing both 
Truk and the Marianas. Later in the same 
month Admiral Nimitz and members of his 
staff also arrived at Washington to discuss 
with the Joint Chiefs plans for future opera- 
tions in the Central Pacific Area. 

General Sutherland had not been in 
Washington long before he found it neces- 
sary to advise General MacArthur that the 

"Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-2473, 5 Mar 44, 
CM-IN 3318. 



10 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Mariana operation was inevitable since both 
the Army Air Forces and the Navy were 
pressing for the undertaking. 19 Accepting 
this, General MacArthur came to the con- 
clusion that, assuming Truk would be by- 
passed, the invasion of the Marianas need 
not materially interfere with the schedule of 
Southwest Pacific operations along the New 
Guinea coast. 20 Admiral Nimitz, discussing 
the possibility of bypassing Truk, told the 
Joint Chiefs that his forces would be ready 
to undertake another major amphibious op- 
eration about mid-June. Either Truk or the 
Marianas, he said, would be acceptable tar- 
gets, but if Truk were bypassed he thought 
it would still be necessary to take the south- 
ern Marianas and the Palaus to assure the 
neutralization of the central Caroline atoll. 
Since a good fleet base in the western Pacific 
would be needed before moving into the 
Philippines, Admiral Nimitz proposed seiz- 
ing Ulithi Atoll, about midway between the 
Marianas and the Palaus. The capture of 
Ulithi would, he thought, probably require 
the occupation of Yap, 100 miles to the 
southwest, and the neutralization if not the 
capture of the Palaus. Woleai, in the Caro- 
lines 400-odd miles almost due south of the 
Marianas, should also be taken to assure the 
neutralization of Truk and the protection of 
the lines of communication from the Mari- 
anas to Yap and Ulithi. 

Initially, Admiral Nimitz recommended 
that the Marianas should be taken in mid- 
June, Woleai a month later, Yap and Ulithi 
at the beginning of September, and the 

19 Tel conv, Gen Sutherland [in Washington] and 
Maj Gen Richard J. Marshall [Deputy CofS GHQ 
SWPA, in Brisbane, Australia], 15 Feb 44, CM-IN, 
WD-Telecon 192. 

20 Rad, CINCSWPA to CofS, C-1741, 16 Feb 44, 
CM-IN 10909. 



Palaus early in November. 21 Reconsidera- 
tion of this plan led Admiral Nimitz to the 
conclusion that the occupation of Ulithi 
should follow landings in the Palaus, a se- 
quence which might permit the neutraliza- 
tion rather than the capture of Yap. This 
schedule would call for landings in the Mari- 
anas on 15 June, on Woleai 15 July, the seiz- 
ure of the Palaus beginning 1 October, and 
the occupation of Ulithi at an opportune 
moment after the Palau operation began. 22 

While Admiral Nimitz had been present- 
ing his plans to the Joint Chiefs, General 
Sutherland had also been preparing new 
plans on the basis of General MacArthur's 
proposals of 5 March. The outline which 
General Sutherland gave to the Joint Chiefs 
called for the Southwest Pacific forces to 
move into the Hollandia area with two divi- 
sions on 15 April, supported by the Pacific 
Fleet. Air, naval, and logistic bases would be 
established at Hollandia to support subse- 
quent Southwest Pacific advances northwest 
to the Geelvink Bay region of Dutch New 
Guinea. The Southwest Pacific forces would 
move to Geelvink Bay about 1 June. 

In the middle of the next month, accord- 
ing to General Sutherland's presentation, 
three Southwest Pacific divisions would be 
sent against the Arafura Sea islands, south- 
west of Dutch New Guinea. There, air bases 
would be established from which to cover 
later advances to the Vogelkop Peninsula 
and Halmahera, both scheduled for mid- 

21 JCS, Memo for Info 200, 7 Mar 44, sub: 
Sequence and Timing of Opns, Central Pacific 
Campaign, A Rpt by CINCPOA, in OPD file, ABC 
384 Pacific (1-17-43) Sec. 3-A; Min, JCS 150th 
Mtg, 7 Mar 44, 

21 Addendum to JCS Memo for Info 200, 8 Mar 
44, sub; Sequence and Timing of Opns, Central 
Pacific Campaign, Further Rpt by CINCPOA, in 
OPD file, ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43), Sec. 3-A. 



THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND 



11 



September, when Central Pacific forces 
might be ready to move to the Palaus. If the 
Marianas were bypassed, however, the 
Southwest Pacific chief of staff pointed out, 
the Palaus might then be invaded as early 
as mid-July. Land-based aircraft of the 
Southwest Pacific Area could support a July 
invasion of the Palaus from air bases in the 
Hollandia and Geelvink Bay regions. If air 
bases on the Vogelkop, Halmahera, and the 
Arafura Sea islands proved inadequate to 
provide left flank protection for the move 
into the Philippines, then airdrome sites on 
Ambon Island might also be seized in Sep- 
tember or October. The entry into the Phil- 
ippines would be effected at southeastern 
Mindanao on 15 November 1944. 23 

Studies of the outlines presented by Gen- 
eral Sutherland and Admiral Nimitz were 
undertaken for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by 
subordinate, advisory committees, which 
found some fault with parts of both plans. 
The committees concluded that Admiral 
Nimitz' plan to seize Woleai had little merit, 
because the operation threatened to be too 
costly in comparison with the possible re- 
sults. Woleai, they determined, should be 
bypassed and neutralized by air action. The 
committees also advised bypassing Truk. 
The capture of the Palaus they considered 
necessary to assure the neutralization of 
Truk, to protect the right flank of Southwest 
Pacific forces moving into the Philippines, 
or to support a move by Central Pacific 
forces directly to Formosa. Again the plan- 
ners turned down the suggestion that all 
forces in the Pacific be concentrated on the 
drive up to the New Guinea coast. 24 The se- 
quence of operations ultimately recom- 

2S Reno IV, 6 Mar 44. 

24 JGS 713, 16 Feb 44, Strategy in the Pacific [a 
Rpt by JSSC] and JCS 713/1, 10 Mar 44, Future 
Opns in Pacific [a Rpt by JPS], both in OPD file, 
ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43) Sec. 3-A. 



mended by the Joint Chiefs' subordinate 
committees provided for the invasion of Hol- 
landia on 15 April, the Marianas on 15 
June, the Palaus on 15 September, and Min- 
danao on 1 5 November. 25 

The New Directive for 1944 

On 12 March the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
completed consideration of the proposals 
submitted by their subordinate committees 
and the planners of the Central and South- 
west Pacific Areas. On the same day the 
Joint Chiefs issued their new directive for 
action in the Pacific during the rest of 1944. 
Reaffirming their belief that Allied strength 
in the Pacific was sufficient to carry on two 
drives across the Pacific, the Joint Chiefs' 
directive was, in effect, a reconciliation 
among conflicting strategic and tactical con- 
cepts. The Joint Chiefs took into considera- 
tion the Army Air Forces' desire to begin 
B— 29 operations against Japan from the 
Marianas as soon as possible; Admiral 
King's belief that the Marianas operation 
was a key undertaking which might well pre- 
cipitate a fleet showdown; the knowledge 
concerning the weakness of Truk gained 
during the February carrier attacks ; the pro- 
posals offered by various planner concern- 
ing the feasibility of bypassing Truk; Ad- 
miral Nimitz' belief that the occupation of 
the Palaus and Ulithi was necessary to as- 
sure the neutralization of Truk and to pro- 
vide the Pacific Fleet with a base in the west- 
ern Pacific; and, finally, General MacAr- 
thur's plans to return to the Philippines as 
early as possible via the New Guinea- 
Mindanao axis of advance. 

The Joint Chiefs instructed General Mac- 
Arthur to cancel the Kavieng operation, to 
complete the neutralization of Rabaul and 

25 JSC 713/1, 10 Mar 44. 



12 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Kavieng with minimum forces, and to speed 
the development of an air and naval base in 
the Admiralties. The Southwest Pacific's 
forces were to jump from eastern New 
Guinea to Hollandia on 15 April, bypassing 
Wewak and Hansa Bay. The Joint Chiefs 
stated that the principal purpose of seizing 
Hollandia was to develop there an air cen- 
ter from which heavy bombers could start 
striking the Palaus and Japanese air bases 
in western New Guinea and Halmahera. 
After the occupation and development of 
the Hollandia area, General MacArthur was 
to conduct operations northwest along the 
northern New Guinea coast and "such other 
operations as may be feasible" with avail- 
able forces in preparation for the invasion 
of the Palaus and Mindanao. The target 
date for the Southwest Pacific's landing in 
the Philippines was set for 15 November. 

Admiral Nimitz, in turn, was ordered to 
cancel the Truk operation and to speed the 
aerial neutralization of Truk, Woleai, and 
other Japanese bases in the central and east- 
ern Carolines. He was also directed to con- 
duct heavy carrier strikes against the Mari- 
anas, the Carolines (including the Palaus), 
and "other profitable targets," and to pro- 
vide carrier support and amphibious means 
for the Southwest Pacific's landings in the 



Hollandia area. The Mariana Islands were 
to be occupied by Central Pacific forces be- 
ginning 1 5 June and the Palaus starting 1 5 
September. The Palaus, said the Joint 
Chiefs, were to be occupied for the purposes 
of extending Allied control over the eastern 
approaches to the Philippines and P'ormosa 
and to secure air and naval bases from which 
to support operations against Mindanao, 
Formosa, and the China coast. 26 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had decreed that 
Pacific strategy would entail a reinvasion of 
the Philippines, but for operations after Min- 
danao no decision was made in March 1 944. 
The strategy for the approach to the Philip- 
pines was clearly delineated — the forces of 
the Southwest Pacific were to move north- 
west along the coast of New Guinea and via 
the islands northwest of the Vogelkop Penin- 
sula into the Philippines; Central Pacific 
forces were to continue operations in two di- 
rections, the first toward Japan through the 
Marianas and the other west toward the 
Philippines via the Palaus. The stage was set 
for the acceleration of the drive to the Phil- 
ippines. 

"Rad, CofS (for JCS) to CINCSWPA, 5171, 
and to COMGENCENPAC (to CINCPOA), 989, 
12 Mar 44, CM-OUT 5137. This message is also 
JCS 713/4, 12 Mar 44, Future Opns in Pacific, in 
OPD file, ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43) Sec. 3-A. 



CHAPTER II 



Planning and Preparation for the 
Hollandia-Aitape Operation 



The first step in the Southwest Pacific 
Area's drive to the Philippines — the seizure 
of the Hollandia region of Dutch New 
Guinea — -could hav e far-reaching conse- 
quences. (Map I) Anchorages at Hollan- 
dia were known to be capable of basing 
many of the largest combat vessels, cargo 
ships, and troop transports. Inland plains in 
the area were thought to provide almost un- 
limited potentialities for airdrome develop- 
ment. Aircraft operating from fields at Hol- 
landia could dominate most Japanese air- 
dromes in western New Guinea and nearer 
islands of the Indies, could fly reconnais- 
sance and bombing missions against the 
western Carolines, including the Palaus, and 
could provide support for subsequent land- 
ing operations along the north coast of New 
Guinea. Small naval vessels, such as motor 
torpedo boats ( PT's ) , operating from Hol- 
landia area bases, could interdict Japanese 
barge traffic for miles both east and west of 
that region. Finally, the Hollandia region 
was capable of development into a major 
supply base and staging 1 area for the sup- 
port of subsequent Allied operations farther 
to the west. 

General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific 
Area, and its subordinate commands were 



to have no easy task in planning the advance 
to Hollandia; but by March 1944 these 
headquarters had accumulated two years' 
experience with the complex air, sea, and 
ground operations that characterized the 
war in the Pacific. Indeed, the planning for 
Hollandia provides an excellent case study 
for most amphibious undertakings in the 
Southwest Pacific. For this reason a detailed 
discussion of the work undertaken by the 
various theater commands, the problems 
they faced, and the means by which these 
problems were solved is included here. The 
planning for subsequent operations within 
the Southwest Pacific is treated in less detail 
with emphasis placed principally on the dif- 
ferences from the Hollandia planning. 

Solving the many problems faced by the 
Southwest Pacific commands in planning 
the advance to Hollandia was made more 
difficult by the interrelationship of many of 
those problems. A direct move to Hollandia 
from eastern New Guinea, bypassing Wewak 
and Hansa Bay, could not be undertaken 
unless carrier-based air support were made 



1 The term "staging" used in the Pacific theaters 
during World War II had a broader meaning than 



that usually applied in Europe or the zone of in- 
terior. In the Pacific a staging base was the point 
of departure for an amphibious operation. At such 
a base not only would troop units be assembled, but 
supplies and equipment of all types would also be 
gathered to be loaded for either immediate or future 
use at objective areas. 



14 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



available from the Pacific Fleet. It was also 
possible that a more powerful enemy force 
might be encountered at Hollandia than had 
been met during any previous landing oper- 
ation in the Pacific theaters. This meant that 
a larger Allied force than had ever before 
been assembled for any single amphibious 
operation in the Pacific would have to be 
sent against Hollandia. The size of this force 
would complicate logistic planning and 
preparations and would necessitate the use 
of more assault shipping than was available 
within the Southwest Pacific Area. Finally, 
the advance was to be made into terrain 
about which many important details were 
unavailable and unobtainable. Thus, all in- 
terested commands of the Southwest Pacific 
Area were to have a thoroughgoing test of 
their training or past experience. 

Theater Organization 

General MacArthur's Southwest Pacific 
Area headquarters was an inter-Allied, in- 
terservicc command exercising operational 
and policy-making functions. The staff was 
organized generally along U. S. Army lines 
except that many technical and administra- 
tive special staff sections were not included. 
Administrative services for U. S. Army 
forces within the theater were concentrated 
at Headquarters, United States Army Forces 
in the Far East, also commanded by General 
MacArthur. Logistic and technical service 
functions for U. S. Army forces were under 
Headquarters, United States Services of 
Supply, Southwest Pacific Area, which also 
had certain inter-Allied and interservice lo- 
gistic responsibilities. Allied combat opera- 
tions were conducted through four opera- 
tional headquarters subordinate to General 
MacArthur — the Allied Air Forces, the Al- 



lied Land Forces, the Allied Naval Forces, 
and Alamo Force. 

Allied Air Forces was commanded by Lt. 
Gen. George C. Kenney (USA). Its major 
component parts during the early period 
covered in this volume w r ere the U. S. Fifth 
Air Force and the Royal Australian Air 
Force Command, Allied Air Forces. Later, 
the U. S. Thirteenth Air Force was rede- 
ployed from the South Pacific Area to pass 
to the control of the Allied Air Forces, 
Southwest Pacific Area. At the time of the 
Hollandia operation, General Kenney was 
also in direct command of the Fifth Air 
Force, while the Royal Australian Air Force 
Command was under Air Vice Marshal 
William D. Bostock (RAAF ) , who also had 
operational control over the few Dutch air 
organizations in the theater. 

The Allied Naval Forces was commanded 
by Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid (USN) , 
whose organization comprised the U. S. Sev- 
enth Fleet ( commanded directly by Admiral 
Kinkaid ) and ships assigned from the Royal 
Australian Navy and the Royal Netherlands 
Navy. Admiral Kinkaid's chief subordinate 
for amphibious operations was Rear Adm. 
Daniel E. Barbey (USN), who was the 
commander of the VII Amphibious Force, 
Seventh Fleet. 

Allied Land Forces was commanded by 
General Sir Thomas Blarney (AIF), who 
was also the commander in chief of the Aus- 
tralian Army and who had operational con- 
trol over the very few Dutch ground force 
troops in the Southwest Pacific Area. 
Alamo Force was commanded by Lt. Gen. 
Walter Krueger (USA), also the com- 
mander of the U. S. Sixth Army. The staffs 
of Alamo Force and Sixth Army were iden- 
tical. As Sixth Army, General Krueger's 
command was subordinate to General 



\TION OF THE ! 



GENERAL HEADQUARTERS 
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA 

Gen. Douglas MacArlhur 



ALAMO FORCE 
OJ. S. SIXTH ARMY) 

Ll. Gen. Wallet Krueser 



ALLIED NAVAL FORCES 
Vice Adm. Thome. C. Kinkald 













Olhei U. S. or 
Allied uniii 
as assigned 



U. S. Seventh Fleet 
Thomas C, 




ALLIED AIR FORCES 
Ll. Gen. George C. Kenney 



Royal 
Netherlands 
Navy unit-, 
as assigned 



Royal 
Australian 
Air Force 
Command, 

Allied 
Air Forces 



Royal 
Australian 
Nary unili 
si assigned 



ALLIED LAND FORCES 
Gen. Sir Thomas Blarney 



U. S. Filth 
Air Force 

Ll. Gen, 
George C. Kennty 



New Guinea Force 
Thom«Bbn,ey 




Australian 
Aimy units 
assigned 
to SWPA 



Royal 
Nelhej lands 
East Indie* 
Air Fofci 



U.S. Atmy 

Utiiii in 
Australia, 
for defensive 
purposes only 



Royal 
Netherlands 
East Indies 
Army unjls 



LL £ ARMY FORCES 
IN THE FAR EAST 

Gen. Douglas MacA.fSur 



U. S. Aimy 
Services or 
Supply, SWPA 

Maj. Gen. 
J, L Frink 



USASOS 
baies or 
bose lections 



Service umft 
as assigned 



16 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Blarney's Allied Land Forces, but as Alamo 
Force it was subordinate only to General 
Headquarters. Allied Land Forces, while re- 
taining operational control of U. S. Army 
troops in continental Australia for defensive 
purposes, controlled during the period of 
operations described in this volume the 
offensive operations of only those ground 
task forces primarily Australian in character. 
Conversely, Alamo Force directed offensive 
operations of ground organizations compris- 
ing principally U. S. Army troops. 2 

In mid- April there were almost 750,000 
troops in the various ground, air, and naval 
services under General MacArthur's com- 
mand. Included in this total were approxi- 
mately 450,000 U. S. Army ground and air 
personnel. Major ground combat compo- 
nents of the U. S. Army were 7 divisions 
(6 infantry and 1 dismounted cavalry), 3 
separate regimental combat teams, and 3 
engineer special brigades. Australian ground 
forces comprised 5 infantry divisions and 
enough division headquarters, brigades, or 
brigade groups (the latter equivalent to a 
U. S. Army regimental combat team) to 
form two more divisions. 3 

Within the boundaries of the Southwest 
Pacific Area were approximately 350,000 
Japanese, of whom 50,000 were hopelessly 
cut off in the Bismarck Archipelago. In the 
New Guinea area were 5 Japanese divisions 
(3 of them greatly understrength ) ; in the 
Netherlands East Indies 3 divisions and 2 
independent mixed brigades (the latter 
somewhat larger than a U. S. Army regi- 
mental combat team) ; and in the Philip- 

2 Milner, Victory in Papua, describes the estab- 
lishment of the command in the Southwest Pacific 
Area. 

3 G-3 GHQ SWPA, G-3 Monthly Sum of Opns, 
May 44, 31 May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 31 May 44. 



pines 1 division and 4 independent mixed 
brigades. 4 

The Hollandia Area 
The Terrain 

The Allied organizations which were to 
move against the Hollandia area were to 
find there an excellent site for a major air 
and supply base, including the only good 
anchorage between Wewak in Australian 
New Guinea and Geelvink Bay, 450 miles 
northwest in Dutch New Guinea. 5 The coast 
line in the Hollandia area is broken by Hum- 
boldt and Tanahmerah Bays, which lie 
about twenty-five miles apart. | [Map 2) 
Between the two are the Cyclops Moun- 
tains, dominating the area. This short range 
rises to a height of over 7,000 feet and drops 
steeply to the Pacific Ocean on its northern 
side. South of the mountains is Lake Sen- 
tani, an irregularly crescent-shaped body of 
fresh water about fifteen and a half miles 
long. Between the north shore of the lake 
and the Cyclops Mountains is a flat plain 
well suited to airdrome construction, while 
other airfield sites are to be found on coastal 
flatlands just east of Humboldt Bay. South 
of Lake Sentani are more plains, which give 
way to rolling hills and a largely unexplored 
mountain range running roughly parallel to 
the coast about thirty or forty miles inland. 

Hollandia is a wet area. In the Humboldt 
Bay region the average annual rainfall is 
90—100 inches; around Tanahmerah Bay 

* G-2 GHQ SWPA, G-2 Monthly Sum of Enemy 
Dispositions, Apr 44, 30 Ap r 44, in G -3 GHQ Jnl, 
30 Apr 44. See also below, [cTTlVTI 

5 Terrain information in this subsection is based 
principally on AGS SWPA Terrain Study 78, Lo- 
cality Study of Hollandia, 6 Mar 44. in OCMH files. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



17 




130—140 inches; and in the Lake Sentani 
depression 60-70 inches. April is neither the 
wettest nor the driest month — those distinc- 
tions are reserved to February and Septem- 
ber, respectively. But rain and mud can be 
anticipated at Hollandia during April, when 
the average rainfall is eight and one-half 
inches and about thirteen rainy days are to 
be expected. The rivers in the area flood 
after heavy rains, but flood conditions 
usually last only a few hours. 

The Hollandia region was well suited for 
defense. The Cyclops Mountains presented 
an almost impassable barrier on the north 
while the width of New Guinea, with its 
rugged inland mountain chains, prevented 
an approach from the south. Movement of 
large bodies of troops along the coast either 
east or west of Hollandia was nearly im- 
possible. Thus, the only practical means of 
access to the most important military objec- 
tive in the area, the Lake Sentani Plain, was 



by amphibious assault at Humboldt Bay, on 
the east, or Tanahmerah Bay, on the west. 
From these two bays Lake Sentani could be 
approached only over many hills and 
through numerous defiles. Roads inland 
through these approaches were little better 
than foot trails prior to the war, but it was 
believed that they had been somewhat im- 
proved by the Japanese. 

Landing beaches were numerous in the 
Humboldt Bay area, but there were few 
along the shores of Tanahmerah Bay. 
Almost all beaches in the region were nar- 
row, backed by dense mangrove swamps, 
and easily defensible from hills to their rear 
and flanks. Measured by standards of jungle 
warfare, the distances from the beaches to 
the center of the Lake Sentani Plain were 
long, being eighteen miles by trail from 
Humboldt Bay and about fourteen miles 
from Tanahmerah Bay. 



18 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Japanese Developments at Hollandia 

Hollandia had little claim to prominence 
before the war. Once it had been a center of 
trade in bird-of-paradise feathers, but this 
commerce had declined after 1931. In the 
late 1920's and early 1930's the Netherlands 
East Indies Government had promoted col- 
onization and agriculture in the area, but 
labor trouble and sickness had caused these 
ventures to be practically abandoned by 
1938. The town of Hollandia, situated on 
an arm of Humboldt Bay, then ceased to be 
commercially important and served only as 
the seat of local government and as a base 
for several exploring expeditions into the in- 
terior of Dutch New Guinea. 

The Japanese occupied the Hollandia 
area early in April 1942 but paid little at- 
tention to the region until almost a year 
later, when Allied air reconnaissance dis- 
closed that the enemy was constructing air- 
fields on the Lake Sentani Plain. This de- 
velopment progressed slowly until late 1943, 
by which time successive reverses in the air 
and on the ground in eastern New Guinea 
and the Bismarck Archipelago, together 
with increasing shipping losses in the same 
region, began to demonstrate to the Japa- 
nese the vulnerability of theif air and supply 
bases east of Hollandia. 6 In late 1943 and 



° Alamo Force, G— 2 Estimate of the Enemy Sit- 
uation, Hollandia— Ai tape Operation, 10 Mar 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2—14 Mar 44; Japanese 
Studies in World War II, No. 43, 18th Army 
Operations, III, 17-20, copy in OCMH files. The 
latter document is one of a series prepared in Japan 
by Japanese Army and Navy officers after the war 
and translated by ATIS SCAP, Copies of the 
translations as well as copies of most of the Japanese 
originals are on file in the OCMH. Dubious or 
questionable parts of the translations were checked 
against the Japanese originals before use was made 
of the documents. 



early 1 944 the enemy built three airfields on 
the Lake Sentani Plain and started a fourth 
at Tami, on the seacoast east of Humboldt 
Bay. Their reverses in eastern New Guinea 
prompted the Japanese to withdraw their 
strategic main line of resistance to the west, 
and the Hollandia airdromes were devel- 
oped as the forward anchor of a string of air 
bases stretching from the southern Nether- 
lands East Indies into the Philippine Islands. 
The Japanese 4th Air Army, principal 
enemy air headquarters in New Guinea, 
established at Hollandia an air base which 
ultimately became so large that it was sur- 
passed in size and strength only by the air 
center earlier developed by the Japanese at 
Rabaul. At Hollandia the 4th Air Army and 
its operating echelon, the 6th Air Division, 
felt comparatively safe, for prior to 1944 
that area lay beyond the effective range of 
Allied land-based fighter planes. 

In addition, because of shipping losses 
east of Hollandia, the Japanese began to de- 
velop Humboldt Bay into a major supply 
base and transshipment point. Large ships 
would unload at Hollandia, whence cargo 
would be carried by barge to points south- 
east along the coast of New Guinea as far 
as Wewak, 215 miles away. Much of the 
cargo of the large ships remained at Hol- 
landia to build up the base there. Continu- 
ous Japanese shipping activity throughout 
western New Guinea indicated to General 
MacArthur's Intelligence (G-2) Section 
that reinforcements were pouring into that 
area — reinforcements which might reach 
Hollandia. At the same time, it seemed 
possible that the Japanese 18th Army might 
send reinforcements to Hollandia from east- 
ern New Guinea. Time favored whatever 
development the Japanese were undertaking 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



19 




LAKE SENTANI PLAIN, SHOWING AIRFIELDS. Between the north shore of 
the lake and the Cyclops Mountains is a flat plain well suited to airdrome development. 



at Hollandia. It was highly important that 
the Allies seize the area before the enemy 
could build it into a formidable fortress. 7 



' 1 8th Army Opns, III, 17-20; Amendment 2, 17 
Mar 44, to GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit 
with Respect to an Opn Against Hollandia, 1 7 Feb 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 29 Feb 44; GHQ SWPA, 
G-2 Daily Summary of Enemy Intelligence [DSEI] 
719, 720, and 759, 11 Mar, 12 Mar, and 20 Apr 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 11 Mar, 12 Mar, and 20 
Apr 44, respectively. 

A Japanese area army is equivalent to the U. S, 
Army's field army; a Japanese army roughly equals 
a U. S. Army corps. Some special Japanese organi- 
zations, such as the Southern Army and the 
Kwantung Army, are equivalent to the U. S. Army's 
army group. A Japanese air army was theoretically 
equivalent to a U. S. Army air force, such as the 
Fifth Air Force; and the Japanese air division, while 
having no exact equivalent in the U. S. forces, would 
occupy the same relative command position as a 



The Decision to Take Aitape 

Preliminary planning for an advance to 
Hollandia had been undertaken in General 
Headquarters during late February 1944. 
On 3 March representatives from major 
commands in both the South and Southwest 
Pacific Areas gathered at General MacAr- 
thur's command post in Brisbane, Australia, 
to discuss the problems involved in carrying 
out the direct advance to Hollandia without 
seizing an intermediate base in the Hansa 
Bay-Wewak area. It was immediately ap- 
parent to the Brisbane conferees that the 



U. S. bomber command or fighter command. Actu- 
ally the Japanese 4th Air Army contained fewer 
planes than the average U. S. air group. 



20 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



basic problem was that of obtaining air 
support. 

Obtaining Carrier-Based Air 
Support 

Previous operations in the Southwest Pa- 
cific Area had been undertaken within effec- 
tive range of Allied land-based fighter cover, 
but Hollandia was beyond this range, since 
the nearest Allied base was Nadzab in Aus- 
tralian New Guinea, almost 500 miles south- 
east of the objective. On the other hand, the 
Japanese had completed one airfield and 
were constructing two others in the Wakde 
Island-Sarmi area of Dutch New Guinea, 
only 125 miles northwest of Hollandia. 
Neither the Wakde-Sarmi nor the Hollan- 
dia fields could be kept neutralized by long- 
range bomber action alone. Fighter sweeps 
against both objectives would be necessary 
before D Day at Hollandia. 

Since land-based fighters could not ac- 
complish these tasks, the long jump to Hol- 
landia could be undertaken only if carrier- 
borne air support could be obtained. The 
Southwest Pacific's naval arm had no car- 
riers permanently assigned to it. Therefore, 
carriers had to be obtained from sources out- 
side the theater. 8 

In their 12 March directive the Joint 
Chiefs had instructed Admiral Nimitz to 
provide support for the Hollandia opera- 
tion. 9 Now, in accordance with these instruc- 
tions, Admiral Nimitz proposed that he pro- 
vide air support for Hollandia by undertak- 
ing carrier-based air strikes against Wakde— 

"Min of Conf, 3 Mar 44, held at GHQ 
SWPA between representatives of GHQ SWPA, 
COMSOPAC, ANF SWPA, et al, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
3 Mar 44; Rad, CINCSWPA to CINCPOA, 
C-2853, 14 Mar 44, CM-IN 9841. 

"Rad, CofS (for JCS) to CINCSWPA, 5171, 
and to COMGENCENPAC (for CINCPOA), 989, 
Mar 44, CM-OUT 5137. 



Sarmi and Hollandia prior to D Day. In 
addition, he would provide air support for 
the landings and, for a limited period there- 
after, operations ashore. This support was 
to be made available by two groups of fast 
carriers assigned to Task Force 58 of the 
U. S. Fifth Fleet, an operational part of 
Admiral Nimitz 5 Pacific Fleet. 10 

Initially, General MacArthur planned to 
have these carriers conduct fighter sweeps 
against Hollandia and the Wakde-Sarmi 
area on D minus 1 and D Day of the Hol- 
landia operation. On D Day carriers would 
support the landings at Hollandia and then 
would remain in the objective area to fur- 
nish cover for ground operations and un- 
loading of supplies and troops through D 
plus 8 or until fields for land-based fighters 
could be constructed at Hollandia. 11 This 
plan was opposed by Admiral Nimitz on the 
grounds that it would invite disaster. In 
western New Guinea the Japanese were 
building many new airfields to which they 
could send large numbers of planes from 
other parts of the Netherlands East Indies or 
from the Philippines. There was no assur- 
ance that Allied carrier-based aircraft and 
land-based bombers could keep these enemy 
fields sufficiently neutralized to prevent the 
Japanese from staging large-scale air attacks 
against the Hollandia area. Admiral Nimitz 
therefore refused to leave the large carriers 
in the objective area for the period desired 
by the Southwest Pacific Area. Instead, he 
would permit Task Force 58 to remain in the 
Hollandia region only through D plus 3. 12 
General MacArthur reluctantly accepted 

w Rad, CINCPOA to CINCSWPA, 14 Mar 44, 
CM-IN 9944; Rad, CINCPOA to COMINCH, 17 
Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 18 Mar 44. 

11 GHQ SWPA, Hollandia Outline Plan, 29 Feb 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44. 

12 Memo, Asst ACofS G-3 Alamo for ACofS G-3 
Alamo, 31 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 31 Mar-1 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA -AIT APE 



21 



this condition, although it left unsolved the 
problem of obtaining air support at Hol- 
landia from D plus 3 until land-based 
fighters could be sent there. Many solutions 
were proposed for this problem. 

Land-Based Air Support 

General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific 
Area, had once given serious consideration 
to a plan to drop parachute troops on the 
Japanese-held airfields north of Lake Sen- 
tani. Since a large Japanese force was esti- 
mated to be defending Hollandia, there was 
no assurance that this action would be tac- 
tically successful. Even if the paratroopers 
captured the airfields quickly, there could be 
no assurance that enough men and engineer- 
ing equipment could be flown to the Lake 
Sentani Plain in time to construct a fighter 
strip there before Task Force 58 was sched- 
uled to retire. This plan was therefore 
abandoned. 13 

The Allied Air Forces proposed the estab- 
lishment of land-based fighters on Wuvulu 
Island, which lies about 1 25 miles northeast 
of Hollandia. This plan was also given up. 
Little was known about terrain conditions on 
Wuvulu, the island was much closer to Jap- 
anese bases than to Allied, and its seizure 
would disclose the direction of the main at- 
tack. Furthermore, the Wuvulu operation 
would absorb ground forces, amphibious 
shipping, and engineering equipment sorely 
needed for the Hollandia campaign. 14 

"Ibid,; GHQ SWPA, Hollandia Outline Plan 
Draft, 28 Feb 44, and Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, 
WF-1012, 7 Mar 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44. 

11 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, XC-1855, 8 Mar 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 8 Mar 44; Rad, Alamo to 
GHQ SWPA, WF-1453, 10 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 10 Mar 44; Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, 



A plan to develop a fighter strip at Tanah- 
merah ( inland in south-central Dutch New 
Guinea and not to be confused with Tanah- 
merah Bay) was likewise proposed and dis- 
carded. The terrain at the inland Tanah- 
merah was poor and the transportation of 
supplies and engineering equipment to the 
site would present major problems. Since 
Tanahmcrah lies south and Hollandia north 
of the great unexplored inland mountain 
range which laterally bisects New Guinea, 
bad weather over this range, by no means 
unusual, might prevent fighters based at 
Tanahmerah from supporting landings at 
Hollandia. 15 Also given serious consideration 
was the possibility of seizing a field in the 
Wakde— Sarmi area simultaneously with 
Hollandia. The principal obstacle to the ex- 
ecution of this plan was lack of sufficient as- 
sault shipping and landing craft to insure 
tactical success. Information about the 
Wakde-Sarmi area was exceedingly meager, 
but it was estimated by General MacAr- 
thur's G-2 Section that enemy strength there 
was growing rapidly. 16 

It was finally decided to obtain land-based 
air support for Hollandia by seizing an air- 
field site on the northern New Guinea coast 
east of the main objective. The location 
chosen was a lightly held area already par- 
tially developed by the Japanese near Ai- 
tape, which lies in Australian New Guinea 

WF-1555, 10 Mar 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
2-14 Mar 44. 

1S GHQ SWPA Conf, 3 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA, 
Hollandia Outline Plan, 29 Feb 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44. 

10 GHQ SWPA Conf, 3 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA 
Memo, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, sub: Consider- 
ations Affecting the Plan to Seize Humboldt Bay 
Area with Strong Support of Carriers, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA, 
G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Wakde-Sarmi Area, 8 Apr 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 8 Apr 44. 



22 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



about 125 miles east-southeast of Hol- 
landia." 

The Aitape Area 

Aitape had been occupied by the enemy 
in December 1942. 18 Before the war the 
town was the seat of local government and 
an interisland trading point of but small 
commerce. The entire region is a coastal 
plain, varying from five to twelve miles in 
width, swampy in many places and cut by 
numerous streams. The only prominent ter- 
rain feature on the coast is a small hill at 
Aitape. There are no natural eastern or west- 
ern boundaries in the area. To the north 
lies the Pacific Ocean, and south of the 
coastal plain rise the foothills of the Torri- 
celli Mountains. Offshore, about eight miles 
east of Aitape, are four small islands. Good 
landing beaches exist throughout the region, 
the best a few miles east of Aitape. The 
absence of suitable terrain features makes 
difficult the defense of the area against am- 
phibious assault. The many rivers could pro- 
vide some defense against lateral movement, 
but these rivers vary greatly in width and 
depth according to the amount of rainfall. 

April marks the end of the wettest season 
in the Aitape region, where rainfall aver- 
ages about 100 inches per year. Though 
June is one of the dryest months, July is one 
of the wettest, with almost eight inches of 
rain. Torrential tropical downpours rather 
than prolonged rains are to be expected at 
Aitape. 

Japanese development in the area cen- 
tered around airfield construction near 



"GHQ SWPA Conf, 3 Mar 44; Rad, GHQ 
SWPA to Alamo, XC-1753, 5 Mar 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44. 

18 The description of the Aitape area is based 
principally on AGS SWPA Terrain Handbook 21, 
Aitape-Vanimo, 21 Mar 44, copy in OCMH files. 



Tadji Plantation, about eight miles east- 
southeast of Aitape. At least three fields were 
begun by the enemy near Tadji at one time 
or another, but terrain conditions and lack 
of equipment prevented the Japanese from 
completing more than one of these strips. 
They used this field as a staging area for air- 
craft flying between Wewak and Hollandia 
and as a dispersal field for planes evacuated 
from heavily bombed airdromes east of 
Aitape. Intelligence reports indicated that 
Japanese ground defenses in the Aitape area 
were weak. It therefore seemed probable 
that there would be little opposition to a 
landing and that the assault force, once 
ashore, could quickly seize the airstrip area. 
It was estimated that Allied engineers could 
rehabilitate one of the Tadji strips for the 
use of fighter planes within forty-eight hours 
after the initial landings. Aircraft based on 
the Tadji strips would be within easy sup- 
porting distance of Hollandia, able to pro- 
vide air cover after the carriers departed 
from Hollandia. 19 

The seizure of the Aitape area had an ad- 
ditional important aspect besides providing 
land-based support for Hollandia. Once es- 
tablished ashore at Aitape, Allied forces 
could provide ground flank protection for 
Hollandia against any westward movement 
on the part of the Japanese 1 8th Army. 

Additional Air Support Problems 

Although the decision to seize the Tadji 
airstrips assured that the departure of Task 
Force 58 would not leave ground operations 
at Hollandia without air support, other air 

18 GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Perse- 
cution [Aitape], 24 Jan 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
26 Jan 44; Memo, ACofS G-3 GHQ SWPA for 
CINCSWPA, 25 Mar 44, sub: Air Tasks for the 
Hollandia Opn, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 31 
Mar-1 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLAND IA -AITAPE 



23 



support problems arose. The seizure of the 
Aitape area itself required air support, but 
Aitape, like Hollandia, was beyond the most 
effective range of Allied land-based fighters. 
Not enough large carriers had been made 
available to support the Hollandia landings 
( providing support for operations there for a 
few days and carrying out air strikes against 
Japanese bases in western New Guinea) and 
also to support the landing at Aitape. 

Eight escort carriers (CVE's), together 
with the large carriers, had been made avail- 
able by Admiral Nimitz to support the Hol- 
landia operation. At first General Mac- 
Arthur planned to use the escort carriers for 
close support missions at both Hollandia and 
Aitape, 20 but it was decided that Task Force 
58's carriers could provide all the air sup- 
port necessary in the Hollandia area. There- 
fore the eight CVE's were to be used to 
support only the assault at Aitape and to 
cover ground operations in that area until 
one of the Tadji strips could be rehabilitated. 
They were to be released for return to the 
Central Pacific Area no later than D plus 
19 of the Hollandia and Aitape landings, 
and earlier if possible. 21 

In order to carry out all the air support 
missions which might become necessary, it 
was extremely important that the maximum 
possible number of fighters be based on the 
Tadji strips at an early date. Originally it 
was planned to send one fighter group of the 
U. S. Fifth Air Force to Tadji, a group con- 
taining both P-38 and P-40 aircraft; but 
it was expected that the airstrips, if in opera- 

" GHQ SWPA Conf, 3 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA 
OI 46, 18 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 18 Mar 44. 

" Memo, G-3 GHQ Opns Div for ACofS G-3 
GHQ, 25 Mar 44, no sub, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 
Mar 44 ; Memo, ACofS G-3 GHQ for CINCSWPA, 
25 Mar 44, sub: Air Tasks for the Hollandia Opn, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 31 Mar-1 Apr 44; 
GHQ SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 28 Mar 44. 



tion by D plus 1 , would be rough and lack- 
ing many normal airfield facilities. It was 
therefore decided to send No. 78 Wing of the 
Royal Australian Air Force to Tadji. This 
Australian unit, which was comparable in 
size to an American group, was equipped 
solely with P-40 aircraft, planes peculiarly 
suited to operations under the rough condi- 
tions and incomplete facilities that could be 
expected at Tadji. 22 

The Forces and Their Missions 

Once it had become certain that close air 
support for the assaults at Hollandia and 
Aitape could be obtained, it was possible to 
undertake detailed logistical and tactical 
planning. D Day, originally set for 1 5 April, 
was postponed to 22 April, with the ap- 
proval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Tide con- 
ditions along the north-central coast of New 
Guinea, the schedule of carrier operations 
already planned by Admiral Nimitz, and 
logistic problems within the Southwest Pa- 
cific Area combined to force this change 
in date. 

On 22 April the air, sea, and land forces 
of the Southwest Pacific, supported by Task 
Force 58, were to seize the Hollandia and 
Aitape areas, isolating the Japanese 18th 
Army to the east. The operations of forces 
assigned to the Southwest Pacific Area were 
to be co-ordinated by General MacArthur's 
headquarters in accordance with the princi- 
ples of unity of command. The action of 
Task Force 58 was to be governed by mutual 
agreement and co-operation between Gen- 
eral MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. At 



"Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, CX-10218, 30 
Mar 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 28-30 Mar 
44; Rad, Advon5AF to GHQ SWPA, R-6915-F, 
31 Mar 44, and Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, 
WF-118, 1 Apr 44, last two in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 31 Mar-1 Apr 44. 



24 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Aitape minor air and naval facilities were to 
be established. At Hollandia a major air 
base, a logistics base capable of supporting 
and staging 150,000 troops, and a small 
naval base were to be constructed. 25 

The Air Plan and Organization 

Long-range or strategic air support, both 
before and during the Hollandia-Aitape 
operation, was to be provided by Task Force 
58 and the Allied Air Forces, Southwest 
Pacific Area. Task Force 58, commanded 
by Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher (USN), 
consisted of the large carriers and escorting 
battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. The 
escort carriers scheduled to support the 
Aitape landing were to operate as Task 
Force 78 under the command of Rear Adm. 
Ralph E.Davison (USN). 24 

Prior to 22 April the land-based bombers 
of the Allied Air Forces were to undertake 
neutralization of enemy air installations 
along the northern coast of New Guinea as 
far west as the Wakde-Sarmi area. Japanese 
air bases on islands in the Arafura Sea, on 
the Vogelkop Peninsula, and in the Caroline 
Islands were all to be hit by Allied Air Forces 
bombers. The missions against the Carolines 
were to be carried out for the most part by 
planes of the XIII Air Task Force, an ad- 
vanced group of the Thirteenth Air Force, 
the latter then in process of moving from the 
South, Pacific to the Southwest Pacific Area. 
Aircraft under control of the Allied Air 
Forces were also to provide aerial reconnais- 
sance and photography as required by the 1 

23 GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 18 Mar 44. 

a ANF SWPA Opn Plan 4-44, 1 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44; CTF 58 
Opn Plan 5-44, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 21 
Apr 44. 



ground and naval forces participating in the 
operation. 25 

Land-based fighters of the Allied Air 
Forces were to cover convoys within range of 
Allied Air Forces bases, while Allied ship- 
ping beyond this range was to be protected 
by aircraft from escort carriers. In order to 
prevent the Japanese from deducing the di- 
rection and objective of the operation, Gen- 
eral Headquarters had decided to route the 
assault convoys from assembly points in 
eastern New Guinea north to the Admiralty 
Islands and thence west-southwest toward 
Hollandia and Aitape. Since this extended 
route would take the convoys into ocean 
areas which could not be covered by land- 
based fighters, the escort carriers had been 
assigned their additional support role. 26 

Medium bombers (B-25's and A-20's) 
of the Allied Air Forces, based in eastern 
New Guinea, were to undertake such close 
support missions at Hollandia and Aitape on 
D Day and thereafter as might be requested 
by the ground force commanders and per- 
mitted by distance and weather. Escort 
carrier aircraft would, if necessary, fly close 
support missions at Hollandia as well as at 
Aitape after Task Force 58 left the former 
area. Task Force 58 planes were to operate 
against targets designated by General Head- 
quarters and requested by the ground com- 
manders at Hollandia. The primary mission 
of Task Force 58, however, was to destroy 
or contain Japanese naval forces which 

M GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 18 Mar 44; AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 30 
Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 30 Mar 44. 

" Memo, ACofS G-3 GHQ SWPA for CINC- 
SWPA, 25 Mar 44, sub: Air Tasks for the Hollandia 
Opn, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 31 Mar-1 Apr 
44; ANF SWPA Opn Plan 4-44, 1 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44; GHQ 
SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 28 Mar 44. 



Chart 2 — Air Organization eor the Ho llandia-Ait ape Operations (Amphibious Phase) 



GENERAL HEADQUARTERS 
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA 



CINCPAC-CINCPOA 



Allied Air Forces 



Allied Naval Forces 
(U. S. Seventh Fleet) 



U. S. Fifth Fleet 



Royal , 
Air Force Command, 



stralian 



fKir l-orce l-ommand, 
Allied Air Forces 



T 



Royal Netherlands 
East Indies Air Force 



Task Force 73 
(Naval Land-Based 
Aircraft, SWPA) 



1 

I 
I 

I 



U. S. Fifth Air Force 



Advanced Echelon, 
Fifth Air Force 




Task Force 78 
(Escort Carriers, 



Operational control. 
Co-operation or joint planning. 



26 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



might attempt to interfere with the Hol- 
landia operation. The air support missions 
of the force were secondary to the destruc- 
tion of the Japanese fleet. 27 

Most of the air support tasks assigned to 
land-based aircraft of the Allied Air Forces 
were to be carried out by the U. S. Fifth Air 
Force. Forward area operations were as- 
signed to the Advanced Echelon, Fifth Air 
Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ennis C. 
Whitehead. Many missions against the 
islands of the Arafura Sea and the Geelvink 
Bay area were to be undertaken by Air Vice 
Marshal Bostock's Royal Australian Air 
Force Command. American air missions 
were to be flown principally from Fifth Air 
Force bases in eastern New Guinea. Aus- 
tralian planes, aided by bombers of the Fifth 
Air Force and a B-25 squadron of the Royal 
Netherlands East Indies Air Force, were to 
strike most of their targets from fields at 
Darwin in northern Australia. 28 

In addition to conducting a fighter sweep 
of the Hollandia and Wakde-Sarmi fields 
prior to D Day and covering the landings at 
Hollandia, Task Force 58 was assigned an- 
other important air support mission. Carrier 
strikes by the U. S. Fifth Fleet during Febru- 
ary had driven the main body of the Jap- 
anese fleet west from its forward base at 
Truk in the Carolines. In March the Jap- 
anese began to reassemble naval power in 
the Palau Islands, some 800 miles northwest 
of Hollandia. This new naval strength con- 
stituted a potentially serious threat to the 

* AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 30 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 30 Mar 44; Change No. 1, 10 Apr 44, to 
CTF 58 Opn Plan 5^1-4, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 21 Apr 44; ANF SWPA Opn Plan 4-44, 1 Apr 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44; 
Rad, CINCPOA to Com5thFlt et al, 27 Mar 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 27 Mar 44. 

28 AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 30 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 30 Mar 44. 



success of the Hollandia operation. It was 
therefore considered imperative to conduct 
a carrier strike against the Palaus in order 
to drive the enemy fleet still farther west, an 
operation scheduled by Admiral Nimitz for 
about 1 April. After the strike against the 
Palaus, Task Force 58 was to retire from the 
Carolines and western New Guinea until 2 1 
April, D minus 1 of the Hollandia operation, 
when it was to return to sweep the Wakde- 
Sarmi and Hollandia fields. 29 

Admiral Nimitz requested that Southwest 
Pacific aircraft cover the strike against the 
Palaus by undertaking reconnaissance and 
bombardment missions over those islands 
and others in the Carolines during the pas- 
sage of Task Force 58 to and from its objec- 
tive. He also asked for missions against Jap- 
anese air and naval installations in the Bis- 
marck Archipelago and along the northern 
coast of New Guinea. There were not suffi- 
cient long-range aircraft available to the 
Allied Air Forces to carry out all the missions 
requested by Admiral Nimitz and at the 
same time continue necessary bombing and 
reconnaissance preparations for the advance 
to Hollandia. Therefore a squadron of 
PB4Y's (the naval version of the Army B- 
24 ) was transferred from the South Pacific 
to the Southwest Pacific. These planes were 
stationed initially in eastern New Guinea 
and then sent to the Admiralties when the 
fields there became operational. Other long- 
range missions in support of the Palau strike 
were carried out by Fifth Air Force B-24's 

"GHQ SWPA Conf, 3 Mar 44; Memo, GHQ 
SWPA, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, sub: Considera- 
tions Affecting the Plan to Seize Humboldt Bay 
Area with Strong Support of Carriers, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; Rad, Com3dFlt 
to CINCPOA, 8 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 9 Mar 
44; CINPAC-CINCPOA Opn Plan 1-44, 18 Mar 
44, in G-3 Jnl, 19 Mar 44; Rad, CINCPOA to 
Com5thFlt, et al., 27 Mar 44, CM-IN 19262. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



27 



and PBY's (two-engined patrol bombers) of 
the Allied Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific 
Area. 30 

Aircraft of the South Pacific Area (the 
operations of this area were under General 
Mac Arthur's strategic direction) were to 
continue aerial blockade of the Bismarcks 
and Solomons. The same air units were to 
assist in reconnaissance missions required to 
cover the operations of both Task Force 58 
and the movement of Southwest Pacific 
forces to Hollandia and Aitape. Finally, 
with naval forces of the South Pacific assist- 
ing, the South Pacific air was to halt Japa- 
nese sea-borne reinforcement and supply ac- 
tivities within the area. 31 

Naval Plans 

The Allied Naval Forces was to transport 
and land the assault troops and supporting 
forces, together with their supplies, and to 
furnish necessary naval protection for the 
overwater movement to the objectives. Ad- 
miral Kinkaid's command was also to con- 
duct hydrographic surveys of harbors and 
approaches at Hollandia and Aitape, under- 
take mine-sweeping at both objectives, and 
carry out submarine reconnaissance as re- 
quired by General MacArthur. Admiral 
Kinkaid delegated control of both ground 
and naval forces during the amphibious 
phase of the operation to Admiral Barbey. 
In case of an engagement with Japanese 
fleet units, Admiral Kinkaid would assume 



30 Rad, CINCPOA to CINCSWPA, 14 Mar 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 18 Mar 44; Rad, CINCSWPA 
to COMSOPAC, XC-2255, 20 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 20 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA OI 48, 24 Mar 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 24 Mar 44; Rad, GHQ 
SWPA to ANF SWPA and AAF SWPA, CX-10113, 
27 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 27 Mar 44. 

31 GHQ SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44; GHQ 
SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA OI 48, 
24 Mar 44. 



direct command of Allied Naval Forces 
combat ships supporting the Hollandia— 
Aitape operation, but otherwise Admiral 
Barbey would remain in control. 32 

For the Hollandia-Aitape operation Ad- 
miral Barbey's command was designated 
Task Force 77. It contained all the attack 
shipping available to the Allied Naval 
Forces and also covering and support forces 
of escort carriers and American and Aus- 
tralian cruisers and destroyers. Task Force 
77's attack shipping and fire support vessels 
were divided into three main sections — the 
Western, Central, and Eastern Attack 
Groups. The first two were responsible for 
the Hollandia area landings, while the East- 
ern Attack Group was to carry assault 
troops to Aitape. 33 

Naval fire support for the landings was 
primarily a responsibility of Task Force 77, 
but the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers 
of Task Force 58 were also to be ready to 
provide fire support for the landings and 
operations ashore at Hollandia, should such 
additional bombardment prove necessary. 34 
In case of fleet action, Admiral Mitscher's 
Task Force 58 would retain its independence 
and would not come under the control of 
General MacArthur or of the latter's naval 
commander, Admiral Kinkaid. Task Force 
58 could depart the Hollandia area at a mo- 
ment's notice to carry out its primary mis- 
sion, destruction or containment of threaten- 
ing Japanese fleet units. Conversely, the 
combat ships and escort carriers of the Allied 
Naval Forces would not pass to the control 
of Admiral Mitscher. There was no provi- 

ss GHQ SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44; ANF 
SWPA Opn Plan 4-44, 1 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44. 

33 Ibid.; CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4—5 Apr 44. 

3, ANF SWPA Opn Plan 4^*4, 1 Apr 44; CTF 
58 Opn Plan 5-44, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
21 Apr 44. 



Chart 3 — Naval Organization for the Hollandia-Aitape Operation (Amphibious Phase) 



SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA 



CINCPAC-CINCPOA 



Allied Naval Forces 
(U. S. Sevenlh Fleet) 

Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkoid 



U. S. FihJi Fl«l 
Adm. Raymond A. Sprironce 



Tosk Force 77 
(Naval Attack Force) 
(VII Amphibious Farce) 



Task Force 74 
(Covering Force A) 

Rcor Adm. 
V. A. C. Crutehley, RN 

9 CA (RAN) 
2 DD (RAN) 
9 OD 



Talk Group 77.1 
(Western Attack Group) 



Rear Adm. 
Daniel E. Barbcy 



7 DO 
1 AK 
1 AT 



3 APA 
15 LCI 
2 YMS 
1 LCI (R) 



1 LSD 
7 LST 

2 SC 



Talk Force 75 
(Covering Force B) 

Rear Adm. 
Russell S. Berkey 

3 CL 6 DD 



Task Farce SB 
Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitseher 

5 CV 7 CVL 6 BB 
3 CL 2 CL (A A) 6 CA 



Task Group 77.9 
(Central Atlack Group) 

Rear Adm. 
William M. Fechleler 

S DD 1 APA 1 LSD 
1 AK 1a LCI 7 LST 
1 AT 2 YMS 2 SC 
5 APD 2 LCI £R> 
S DMS 



Task Force 78 
(Escort Carrier Force) 

Rear Adm. 
Ralph E. Doviian 

SCVE 16 OD 
(Under TG 77.3 during 
assault) 



Talk Group 77.3 
(Eastern Attack Group) 

Copt. Albert G. Noble 

6 DD 9 APD 1 LSD 
1 AK 2 DMS 7 LST 
1 AT 4 YMS 4 SC 



Task Unit 77.4.1 
(Western Unit) 



1 AKA 
7 LST 



2 DD 
1 PF 



Task Group 77.4 
(Firil Reinforcement 
Group) 

Copt. Edward M. Thompson 

(D plu, 1) 



Task Unit 77.4,2 
(Centra) Unit) 

5 LST 1 PF 2 DD 



Task Group 77.6 
(Floating Reserve Group) 

Cap!. George E. McCabe 

1 AKA 2 APA 
(sailed with TG 77.4 and 
stopped a) Artapi with 
TU 77.4.lf 



Task Unit 77,4.3 
(Eastern Unit) 

1 AK 2 DD 
6 LST 2 PF 



(At staging areas) 



Task Group 77.5 
(Second Reinforcement 
Group) 

Capl. John B. MeGoverr. 

(Ophr. 2) 



I 



Task Unit 77.5.2 
(Central Unit) 

5 LST 2 DD 



Task Unit 77.5.1 
(Western Unit) 



2 APA 
2 DD 



7 LST 
2 DE 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA -AITAPE 



29 



sion made for unified air or naval command 
in the objective area — a situation similar to 
that which obtained six months later at 
Leyte Gulf. 

The Ground Forces 

Ground operations at Hollandia and 
Aitape were to be under the control of 
Alamo Force, commanded by General 
Krueger. 35 General Headquarters' early 
plans, which were based on the assumption 
that Hollandia would be a single objective, 
had assigned to Alamo Forge one and one- 
third reinforced divisions, totaling about 
32,000 combat and service troops. When 
intelligence estimates indicated that nearly 
14,000 Japanese troops, including two in- 
fantry regiments, might be stationed at Hol- 
landia by D Day, it became obvious that 
General Krueger would need more strength. 
When Aitape was added to the Hollandia 
plan, another need for increased strength 
became apparent. Japanese forces at Aitape 
were estimated at 3,500, including 1,500 
combat troops. Since the Japanese used 
Aitape as a staging area for troop move- 
ments between Wewak and Hollandia, it 
was considered possible that before 22 April 
enemy strength at Aitape might fluctuate 
from one to three thousand above the esti- 
mated figure. 36 As a result of these estimates, 
two and one-third reinforced divisions, total- 
ing almost 50,000 troops, were made avail- 



36 GHQ SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 28 Mar 44. 

™ Memo, GHQ SWPA, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, 
sub: Considerations Affecting the Plan to Seize 
Humboldt Bay Area with Strong Support of Car- 
riers, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2—14 Mar 44; 
GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Persecution 
[Aitape], 24 Jan 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 Jan 44; 
GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEFs 710-761, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnls, I Mar-22 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of 
Enemy Sit, 22 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 22 Mar 44. 



able to General Krueger for the assault 
phase of the Hollandia-Aitape operation. 37 

Responsibility for ground operations at 
Hollandia was delegated by General Krue- 
ger to Headquarters, U. S. I Corps, which 
for this undertaking was designated the 
Reckless Task Force. Commanded by Lt. 
Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, I Corps head- 
quarters had seen action during the Papua 
Campaign. Since then it had been based 
in Australia, operating as a training and 
defense command. Early in 1944 the corps 
headquarters had moved to Goodenough 
Island, off the eastern tip of New Guinea, to 
prepare for the now canceled Hansa Bay 
operation. At Hollandia General Eichelber- 
ger was to control the action of the 24th and 
41st Infantry Divisions (the latter less one 
regimental combat team). The 24th Divi- 
sion, when alerted for the Hollandia opera- 
tion, was finishing amphibious and jungle 
training at Goodenough Island in prepara- 
tion for the Hansa Bay campaign. Elements 
of the 41st Division, which was commanded 
by Maj. Gen. Horace H. Fuller, had partici- 
pated in the Papua Campaign, while other 
parts of the unit had gained experience in 
the Lae-Salamaua operations. At the time 
it was alerted for Hollandia, the 41st Divi- 
sion was rehabilitating and retraining in 
Australia. 38 

Two regimental combat teams of the yet 
untried 24th Division, commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Frederick A. Irving, were to land at 
Tanahmerah Bay, while two regimental 

" GHQ SWPA OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44. 

38 Alamo Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-23 Mar 44 ; GHQ SWPA, 
G-3 Hist Div, Chronology of the War in the SWPA, 
copy in OCMH files; Memo, CINCSWPA for 
COMSOPAC, Comdr AAF SWPA, Comdr ANF 
SWPA, et al., 9 Feb 44, sub: Outline Plan Hansa 
Bay Opn, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 9 Feb 44; Reckless 
Task Force (hereafter cited as RTF) Opns Rpt 
Hollandia, p. 6. 



30 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




HOLLANDIA-AITAPE PLANNERS. Left to right: Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichel- 
berger, Rear Adm. Daniel E, Barbey, Ma]. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, Lt. Gen. 
Walter Krueger. Officer at right is unidentified. 



combat teams of the 41st Division were to 
go ashore at Humboldt Bay. 30 At Aitape, the 
163d Infantry of the 41st Division was to 
make the initial landings. 

Operations at Aitape were to be con- 
trolled by Headquarters, Persecution 
Task Force, commanded by Brig. Gen. Jens 
A. Doe, Assistant Division Commander, 41st 
Division. The Persecution Task Force, 
organized on 23 March, was an Allied head- 
quarters especially set up for the Aitape 



39 RTF FO 1, 27 Mar 44, atchd to RTF Opns 
Rpt Hollandia; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 6. 



operation. It was to exercise its command 
functions directly under Alamo Force and 
was on the same level of command as the 
Reckless Task Force. 40 

Until a beachhead was secured in the 
Aitape area, control of the landing and oper- 
ations ashore was to be vested in Admiral 
Barbey as the Attack Force commander, 
who was to be represented at Aitape by the 
Commander, Eastern Attack Group, Capt. 

40 Alamo Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-23 Mar 44; Persecution 
Task Force (hereafter cited as PTF) FO 1, 6 Apr 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 5-6 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



31 



Albert G. Noble (USN). General Doe was 
to assume command of operations at Aitape 
upon the seizure of the beachhead, at which 
time the Persecution Task Force was auto- 
matically to pass from the control of the 
Navy to Alamo Force. 

At Hollandia the control of operations 
was to pass from the commanders of the 
W estern and Central Attack Groups to the 
commanders of the 24th and 41st Divisions, 
respectively, when those units had secured 
their beachheads. Admiral Barbey was to 
retain control over ground action in the Hol- 
landia area until General Eichelberger saw 
fit to move his headquarters ashore. The 
task force would then revert from naval 
control to the supervision of Alamo Force. 41 

To reinforce the 24th and 41st Divisions 
for the Hollandia— Aitape operation, three 
separate field artillery battalions, four engi- 
neer combat battalions, seven (plus) anti- 
aircraft battalions, a tank destroyer battal- 
ion, and the bulk of three engineer boat and 
shore regiments were made available. Other 
reinforcing units included a medium tank 
company of the 1st Marine Division, then on 
New Britain, and another from the 1st Cav- 
alry Division, which was operating on the 
Admiralty Islands. Among the service 
organizations assigned to the operation was 
No. 62 Works Wing, Royal Australian Air 
Force, to which was assigned the task of 
rehabilitating an airfield at Aitape by D 
plus l. 42 

General Headquarters Reserve for the 
operation was the 6th Infantry Division, 
then finishing training for amphibious and 
jungle warfare at Milne Bay, New Guinea. 

41 Alamo Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44; ANF SWPA 
Opn Plan 4-44, 1 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA OI 46 
(Rev), 28 Mar 44. 

4i Annex 1, Tentative Troop List, 13 Mar 44, to 
GHQ SWPA Warning Order 4, 7 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 7 Mar 44; Alamo Force FO 12, 23 
Mar 44. 



About a week before the landings the 503d 
Parachute Infantry, veteran of one combat 
jump in eastern New Guinea,- was desig- 
nated as an additional General Headquar- 
ters Reserve. 

Alamo Force Reserve for the Hollandia- 
Aitape operation was originally the 127th 
Infantry (and regimental combat team at- 
tachments) of the 32d Division. It was 
brought out of reserve and assigned to the 
Persecution Task Force to arrive at Aitape 
on D plus 1 because, as D Day approached, 
General Krueger became increasingly con- 
cerned over the capabilities of the Japanese 
18th Army, concentrating a strength of 
fifty to sixty thousand at Wewak, only nine- 
ty-four miles east-southeast of Aitape. The 
G-2 Section of General MacArthur's head- 
quarters estimated that a large part of the 
18th Army could march overland from We- 
wak to Aitape in two weeks, an opinion not 
shared by the Operations Section (G-3) of 
the same headquarters. The 18th Army, ac- 
cording to General MacArthur's G— 2, could 
be expected to make determined efforts to 
recapture the Aitape area. 43 

<* GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Hollandia, 
22 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 22 Mar 44; Amend- 
ment 2, 17 Mar 44, to GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of 
Enemy Sit with Respect to an Opn Against Hol- 
landia, 17 Feb 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 29 Feb 44; 
GHQ SWPA, DSEI's 710-761, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnis, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44; remarks of Maj 
Gen Stephen J. Ghamberlin, ex-AGofS G-3 GHQ 
SWPA, at Hist Div SSUSA Seminar, 23 Jan 48, 
copy in OCMH files. General Willoughby, General 
MacArthur's G-2, as late as 4 March opposed the 
jump to Hollandia because he doubted the ability 
of distant land-based and local carrier-based air- 
craft to protect Allied forces until land-based planes 
could be established at Hollandia, and he advised 
adhering to the earlier plans for an operation 
against the Hansa Bay-Wewak area. General 
Chamberlin had much more faith in the carriers. 
General Willoughby's views are to be found in 
Memo, ACofS G-2 GHQ SWPA to ACofS G-3 
GHQ SWPA, 4 Mar 44, no sub, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
3 Mar 44. The G-3's reply is attached. 



32 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



General MacArthur considered General 
Krueger's commitment of the 127th Regi- 
mental Combat Team to operations at 
Aitape at least premature, if not unneces- 
sary. The theater commander had planned 
to relieve the 32d Division, then at Saidor 
on the Huon Peninsula, with Australian 
troops. The division was to be staged at 
Saidor for an operation against the Wakde— 
Sarmi area in quick exploitation of expected 
success at Hollandia and Aitape. General 
MacArthur believed, however, that Aitape 
might ultimately have to be reinforced. Re- 
luctant consent was therefore given to Gen- 
eral Krueger's plan and General MacArthur 
made provision to use other units at Wakde- 
Sarmi. Alamo Force Reserve then became 
the 3 2d Division less two regimental com- 
bat teams — the 127th at Aitape and another 
which was to remain in the Saidor area for 
an indeterminate period. 44 Reckless Task 
Force Reserve at Hollandia was the 34th 
Infantry (and combat team attachments) 
of the 24th Division. Persecution Task 
Force Reserve during the landings at Aitape 
was the 1st Battalion, 163d Infantry. 45 

Ground forces of the South Pacific Area 
were to continue their campaigns in the Sol- 
omon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago 
during the Hollandia- Aitape operation. 
New Guinea Force, commanded by General 
Blarney and consisting principally of Aus- 
tralian troops, was to continue pressure 
against 1 8th Army elements southeast of 
Wewak. This action was expected to help 

" GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnl, 18 Mar 44; Alamo Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44; 
Rad, Alamo to 3 2d Div, no number, 13 Apr 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 13 Apr 44 ; Memo, ACofS G-3 GHQ 
SWPA for GofS GHQ SWPA, 14 Apr 44, no sub; 
Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-2393, 14 Apr 44 ; 
Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, C-10671, 14 Apr 44. 
Last three documents in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 14 Apr 44. 

"RTF FO 1, 27 Mar 44; PTF FO 1, 6 Apr 44, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 5-6 Apr 44. 



prevent the 18th Army from moving west- 
ward at will either to attack or to bypass the 
Aitape area. New Guinea Force was also to 
defend all of eastern New Guinea it then 
occupied. 48 

Logistics 

Logistic support of the Hollandia-Aitape 
operation was the responsibility of the 
United States Army Services of Supply, 
Southwest Pacific Area. The magnitude of 
the logistic problem is illustrated by the fact 
that the grand total of all Southwest Pacific 
Area forces assigned directly to the Hollan- 
dia-Aitape operation was over 84,000 men. 
There were approximately 50,000 ground 
combat troops and almost 23,000 personnel 
of all types of service units. Allied Air Forces 
units scheduled to move forward to Hollan- 
dia and Aitape during the opening stages 
of the operation, including both ground and 
air echelons, totaled over 12,000 men. Of 
the 84,000 troops assigned to the operation, 
about 52,000 men were to land in the objec- 
tive areas by the evening of D plus 3, con- 
sidered the, end of the assault phase. 47 
Never before had an operation of this size 
been undertaken in the Southwest Pacific 
Area. 

Other problems existed, some of them di- 
rectly and others indirectly related to the 
size of the force. Heading the list was the 
theater's chronic and sometimes acute short- 
age of ships. There were to be three widely 
separated beaches, each far more distant 
from supply bases than had been the case in 



""GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 44, and OI 46 
(Rev), 28 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA OI 48, 24 M.ir 44. 

" Annex 1, Tentative Troop List, 13 Mar 44, to 
GHQ SWPA Warning Order 4, 7 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl 7 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 Mar 
44, and OI 46 (Rev), 28 Mar 44; Alamo Force 
FO 12, 23 Mar 44. 



Chart 4— Ground 



FOR THE HOLLANDIA— AlTAPE 



GENERAL HEADQUARTERS 
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA 



GENERAL R HEADQUARTERS 

(6th Infantry Division) 
(503d Parachute Infantry) 






RECKLESS TASK 
FORCE 

L ( G S ' { Rb P fl 







ALLIED LAND FORCES 
Gen. Sir Thomas Blarney 



ALAMO FORCE 
RESERVE 

(32d Infantry Division 
Less Two RCT s) 

Maj. Gen, 
William H. Gill 



RECKLESS TASK 
FORCE RESERVE 

(34th RCT) 



NOI< 
LANDI* 

(24th Infantry Division, 
less 34th RCT) 
Mai. Gen. 
Frederick A. Irving 



1 



LA 



(41st Infantry Division, 
less 163d RCT) 
Maj. Gen. 
Horace H. Fuller 




34 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



earlier operations in the theater. The neces- 
sity for hurried airdrome construction at the 
objectives made it imperative that large 
quantities of engineering equipment and 
materiel be sent to Hollandia and Aitape 
during the first two or three days of the oper- 
ation. Plans to develop Hollandia into a 
major air center and logistic base involved 
a long-range program of construction. Stag- 
ing the troops was complicated by the fact 
that the units were scattered from points in 
southern Australia to the Admiralty Islands 
and from the Huon Peninsula to western 
New Britain. 

The Logistic Plan 

While logistic support of the Hollandia- 
Aitape operation was a responsibility of the 
Services of Supply, Alamo Force was re- 
sponsible for the co-ordination of all detailed 
logistic planning. 48 For the purposes of co- 
ordination, General Krueger was authorized 
to call to his headquarters representatives of 
the Services of Supply, the Allied Air Forces, 
and the Allied Naval Forces. 

The Allied Naval Forces was responsible 
for the logistic support of its own elements, 
but in case of emergency it could draw sup- 
plies from Services of Supply stocks. All air 
force technical supplies required to support 
air force units moving to Hollandia or 
Aitape were to be provided by the Allied Air 
Forces. That headquarters was to be pre- 
pared to fly emergency supplies to Hollandia 
and Aitape upon call from Alamo Force. 
The latter organization was to provide main- 



49 The material in this subsection is based prin- 
cipally on : Annex 4, Logistics, to GHQ SWPA OI 
46, 18 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 18 Mar 44; 
USASOS Logistics Instructions 46/SOS, 2 Apr 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 3 Apr 44; Alamo Force Adm 
O 7, 6 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-23 
Mar 44. 



tenance and rations for troops staging for 
Hollandia and Aitape, establish initial sup- 
ply bases at the objectives, and initiate 
numerous construction projects, including 
airfields at Hollandia and Aitape. 

To insure supply of units moving to Hol- 
landia and Aitape, the Services of Supply 
was to provide at forward bases a thirty-day 
supply of rations, unit equipment, clothing, 
fuels, and lubricants. Six units of fire 49 of 
all types of ammunition were to be stock- 
piled for ground assault troops. Construction 
materiel, in amounts and types determined 
by Alamo Force, was also to be provided at 
forward bases. The responsibility for obtain- 
ing these supplies from the Services of Sup- 
ply and assembling them at Reckless and 
Persecution Task Force staging areas was 
vested in Alamo Force. 

Assault units of the Reckless and Per- 
secution Task Forces were to carry ashore a 
five-day supply of rations. Additional rations 
to assure food until D plus 20 for all units of 
the Reckless Task Force landed through 
D plus 3 were to be moved to Hollandia 
with those units. Sufficient rations were 
to be loaded for Persecution Task Force 
assault echelons to supply them through 
D plus 29. Both task forces were to take with 
them a fifteen-day supply of unit equipment, 
clothing, fuels, and lubricants. Engineer 
construction materiel was to be loaded on 
ships scheduled to land through D plus 3 in 
such quantity as to satisfy the minimum pre- 

49 From available evidence, it appears that at the 
time of the Hollandia-Aitape operation the unit of 
fire used in the Southwest Pacific was the same as 
that established by the War Department. Later, 
however, some changes were effected within the 
theater, notably an increase in the rounds per unit 
of fire for the BAR and the 105-mm. howitzer and 
a reduction in rounds for the Ml rifle. The War 
Department unit of fire during 1944 is to be found 
in the 1944 edition of FM 101-10, Staff Officers' 
Field Manual: Organization, Technical, and Lo- 
gistical Data. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



35 



scribed by Alamo Force, and in additional 
quantities as required by the commanders of 
the Reckless and Persecution Task 
Forces. Fifteen days' supply of other types of 
construction and maintenance materiel was 
to be moved to Hollandia and Aitape during 
the assault phase of the operations. 

Provision for ammunition supply was 
more complex and depended to a large ex- 
tent upon the nature of individual combat 
organizations. Assault troops moving to Hol- 
landia were to be provided with at least two 
units of fire for all weapons. On the other 
hand, the Persecution Task Force was to 
be supplied with four units of fire for the 
landing. Sufficient ammunition for field and 
antiaircraft artillery weapons, 4.2-inch mor- 
tars, and hand grenades was to be shipped 
forward on assault convoys to provide each 
task force with six units of fire by D plus 3. 
Other types of ammunition, to establish a 
total of five units of fire by D plus 3, would 
also be shipped to Hollandia and Aitape. 
Resupply of ammunition for the Reckless 
and Persecution Task Forces was a re- 
sponsibility of Alamo Force. Two units of 
fire for all weapons were to be brought for- 
ward on convoys scheduled to arrive at the 
objectives on D plus 8. After this first auto- 
matic resupply, the two task forces would 
requisition from Alamo Force ammunition 
as needed. 

Extra rations, fuels, lubricants, and am- 
munition were to be stockpiled at forward 
bases so as to insure uninterrupted flow of 
these items to the objectives. The Services of 
Supply was to hold two large cargo vessels 
empty at a forward base for possible emer- 
gency use until D plus 30, and was also to 
furnish, prior to D Day, 1,000 tons of space 
on small ships for emergency use. The Allied 
Naval Forces and the Services of Supply 
were to co-operate in providing tankers for 



movement of bulk-loaded aviation gasoline, 
barges for handling such fuel at the objec- 
tives, and harbor and lightering craft. 
Through D plus 45 the control of all ship- 
ping moving to Hollandia and Aitape was to 
rest with Allied Naval Forces. After that 
date the Services of Supply was to assume 
this responsibility. Principal supply and stag- 
ing bases were to be at Goodenough Island 
and Finschhafen. The latter base would be 
the point of departure for resupply ships con- 
trolled by Allied Naval Forces. Services of 
Supply shipping was to use such bases as 
might be determined by that headquarters. 

Obtaining the Shipping 

Early plans for the operation had indi- 
cated that 32,000 troops with 28,500 meas- 
urement tons of supplies would be ample to 
secure the Hollandia area. Enough shipping 
could have been scraped up within the 
Southwest Pacific to carry out an operation 
of that size, but the scope of the undertaking 
was entirely changed by the enlargement of 
the forces and the decision to seize Aitape. 
The 52,000-odd troops finally assigned to the 
assault phase of the operation would require 
58,100 tons of supplies and equipment. 
There was not enough assault shipping with- 
in the theater to meet such requirements of 
troop and cargo space. 50 

Most of the necessary additional shipping 
was obtained by borrowing for a limited pe- 
riod assault vessels from the South and Cen- 
tral Pacific Areas and by utilizing some 
theater ships normally engaged in training 
activities or operations in rear areas, sub- 
stituting civilian-manned vessels for the lat- 

50 Annex 4, Logistics, to GHQ SWPA OI 46, 18 
Mar -44~;-.GHQ SWPA, Hollandia Outline Plan 
Draft, 28 Feb 44, and atchd, unsigned, undated 
memo, sub : Comments on Hollandia Outline Plan, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44. 



36 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ter. By mid-March it appeared that these 
steps had secured the minimum shipping 
space needed for the operation. However, 
requirements for hurried airdrome and base 
construction made it necessary to add more 
service troops and larger quantities of engi- 
neer equipment to assault cargoes than had 
been contemplated when arrangements for 
borrowing ships were first completed. 51 

General Krueger proposed that additional 
shipping space be obtained by using large 
cargo vessels ( AK's) which were not usually 
employed during assaults. These vessels, 
often of the Liberty-ship type, differed from 
attack cargo ships (AKA's) principally in 
that they did not carry enough small boats 
to unload themselves. Four AK's, manned 
by U. S. Navy or Coast Guard personnel, 
were operating in rear areas in the theater 
where dock facilities and large cranes were 
available. General Krueger requested that 
these four be made available for the Hol- 
landia— Aitape operation, a request which 
seemed justified in the light of expected 
Allied air superiority at the objectives and 
which had a precedent in Japanese practice 
during the early months of the war in the 
Pacific. 52 

Admiral Barbey, in charge of the amphib- 
ious phase of the operation, opposed this 
plan. He felt that AK's would be especially 

"Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, XC-1753, 5 
Mar 44, and Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF- 
1012, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 
Mar 44; Memo, G-3 GHQ Opns Div to ACofS 
G-3 GHQ, 25 Mar 44, sub: Shipping Borrowed 
from SOPAC, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Mar 44; Memo, 
ACofS G-3 Alamo for CofS Alamo, 27 Mar 44, 
no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 24-27 Mar 44. 

s! Memo, GHQ SWPA, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, 
sub: Considerations Affecting the Plan to Seize 
Humboldt Bay Area with Strong Support of Car- 
riers, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; 
Memo, G-3 Alamo Ping Div for ACofS G-3 

Alamo, 11 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 

Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; Rad, Com7thFlt to 
Alamo, 15 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 16 Mar 44. 



vulnerable to attack in the forward areas if 
they were to remain at the objectives until 
completely unloaded of a capacity cargo. 
The Supply Section (G— 4) of General Mac- 
Arthur's headquarters did not entirely agree 
with the admiral and was, indeed, inclined 
toward the point of view that AK's ". . , 
should be operated with a view to support 
rather than preservation of naval facilities 

5) 53 

The G-4 Section's point of view repre- 
sented one side of a basic disagreement be- 
tween Army and Navy circles not only in the 
Southwest Pacific Area but also, to varying 
degrees, in other theaters of operations. To 
the Navy, the shipping shortage in the 
Southwest Pacific, together with the impor- 
tance of keeping in operation ships capable 
of providing further logistic support, out- 
weighed the necessity for employing mer- 
chant-type shipping, such as AK's, in the 
early phases of amphibious operations. The 
loss of a single vessel of that type would be 
keenly felt in both rear and forward areas in 
the Southwest Pacific for months to come. 
Moreover, to the Navy a piece of capital 
equipment such as an AK was not as ex- 
pendable as such items of ground force 
equipment as an artillery piece, a tank, or a 
truck. An AK represented months or per- 
haps years of construction effort and crew 
training. 54 

Admiral Barbey finally determined to 

"Memo, ACofS G-2 Alamo to CofS Alamo, 
15 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
15-18 Mar 44; Memo, ACofS G-3 Alamo, for CofS 
Alamo, 27 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hol- 
landia, 24-27 Mar 44; Ltr, Col Harold E. Eastwood 
[of G-4 GHQ SWPA] to ACofS G-4 Alamo, 26 
Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G— 4 Jnl Hollandia, 11 
Feb-2 Apr 44. The quotation is from the latter 
document. 

" Ltr, Rear Adm Albert G. Noble [Chief, BuOrd 
USN and, in 1944, one of Admiral Barbey's chief 
deputies] to Gen Ward, 18 Dec 50, no sub, in 
OCMH files. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA -AITAPE 



take some calculated risks that seemed to 
be warranted by the importance of the 
cargo which AK's could carry to the ob- 
jectives. He decided that two lightly loaded 
AK's would move to Hollandia with the 
D-Day convoys. These two ships were to 
leave that area on D plus 2 whether or not 
their unloading was completed. Another 
AK was to reach Aitape on D Day and the 
fourth would arrive at Aitape on D plus 1 . 
Both the latter were to have a capacity load 
and were to remain at Aitape until com- 
pletely discharged. During the period that 
the four AK's were operating in the forward 
area, the Services of Supply, by arrange- 
ment with Allied Naval Forces, was to 
provide civilian-manned vessels totaling 
equivalent tonnage for operations in the 
rear area. 55 

The fact that the AK's scheduled to ar- 
rive at Hollandia on D Day were not to be 
completely loaded resulted in a reduction 
of tonnage space — space which Alamo 
Force believed necessary for the success of 
the operation. During the discussion con- 
cerning the dispatch of AK's to Hollandia, 
the Allied Naval Forces had made available 
six landing ships, tank (LST's) which had 
not previously been assigned to the opera- 
tion, apparently in the hope that Alamo 
Force would accept these vessels in lieu of 
the AK's. Even with this addition, space 
was still lacking for 3,800 tons of engineer- 



53 Ibid.; Rad, Com7thFIt to Alamo, 15 Mar 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 16 Mar 44; Rad ComServFor- 
7thFlt to GTF 76, 15 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
16 Mar 44; Rad, CTF 76 to Alamo and ANF 
SWPA, 1 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
31 Mar-1 Apr 44; Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, 
C-10273, 1 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 1 Apr 44; 
Rad, CTF 76 to Alamo and Com7thFlt, 1 Apr 44, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-4 Apr 44; Annex 
6, Assignment of Shipping, 1 Apr 44, to Alamo 
Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 20-23 Mar. 44. 



37 

ing equipment and other cargo that Alamo 
Force desired to send forward with initial 
convoys. This cargo had to wait for later 
convoys. 66 

As another result of the limitations on 
cargo space, the quantity of supplies to be 
carried forward after the assault phase, on 
Services of Supply ships manned by civilian 
crews, was increased beyond that originally 
contemplated. In addition, some of the ships 
sailing with the D Day through D plus 3 
convoys would have to unload at Hollandia 
and Aitape, return to eastern New Guinea 
bases for reloading, and go back to the for- 
ward objectives with a new series of convoys 
beginning on D plus 8." 

The first detailed plans for the Hollandia 
operation had been drawn up during the 
last week of February 1 944 and final major 
changes were completed in the second week 
of April. As a result of the various changes, 
ships scheduled to arrive at the objectives 
during the assault phase of the operation 
had increased as follows : 

Plan of 28 Plan of 9 

February April 

4 Attack Troop Transports 8 

(APA's) 

1 Attack Cargo Ships (AKA's) 2 

1 Landing Ships, Dock (LSD's) 3 

10 Destroyer Transports (APD's) 14 

30 Landing Craft, Infantry 31 
(LCI's) 

27 Landing Ships, Tank (LST's) 51 

— Cargo Ships (AK's) 4 



M Memo, ACofS G-3 Alamo for CofS Alamo, 
27 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G— 3 Jnl Hollandia, 
24-27 Mar 44; Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, 
CX-10175, 28 1 ' Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 28 
Mar 44. 

"Memo, ACofS G-4 Alamo for ACofS G-4 
USASOS, 9 Apr 44, no sub, in Alamo G-4 Jnl 
Hollandia, 3-16 Apr 44; CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 
3 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 Apr 44. 



38 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



After 9 April the number of assault vessels 
was not changed and the quantity of per- 
sonnel and supplies scheduled to be landed 
through D plus 3 remained substantially the 
same. 5 * 

Loading and Unloading Problems 

Because of the shipping shortage, it was 
extremely important to make use of all avail- 
able cargo space on each vessel. In accord- 
ance with common practice in amphibious 
operations, the ships of the Hollandia- 
Aitape assault convoy were to be combat- 
loaded, which is to say that supplies most 
needed ashore would be the last loaded at 
staging areas, and the most important ma- 
teriel would be aboard ships to be first dis- 
charged. This would insure that priority 
cargo would be the first ashore. Combat 
loading could take a variety of forms or com- 
binations thereof. All cargo could be loaded 
in bulk in the holds of ships, or could be 
stowed aboard wheeled or tracked vehicles, 
themselves to be combat-loaded. Another 
possibility considered during preparations 
for the Hollandia-Aitape operations was to 
lash supplies onto prefabricated platforms — - 
known as pallets — which could easily be 
loaded aboard cargo ships. For unloading, 
these platforms could be lowered by deck 
cranes into small boats or, occasionally, into 

M GHQ SWPA, Hollandia Outline Plan Draft, 
28 Feb 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 
44; Alamo Force FO 12, 23 Mar 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-23 Mar 44. The second 
column includes the AK's, the shipping listed in 
CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44 of 3 Apr 44, the ships 
carrying the 127th RGT to Aitape (shipping which 
was committed to the assault phase on 9 April), 
and miscellaneous other additions in the period prior 
to 9 April. The totals agree with those set forth_in 
Alamo FO 12 and with the naval reports of the 
operation, although not with the naval plans. 



water to be dragged behind small craft to 
the beach. 58 

Pallet-loading had been used extensively 
during operations in the Central Pacific 
Area but had been little employed in the 
Southwest Pacific. The system had the ad- 
vantage of saving much time and labor by 
reducing to a minimum the handling of 
individual boxes, crates, and cartons. But 
it had the disadvantage of using somewhat 
more space in holds than simple bulk 
stowage. Moreover, not many pallets were 
readily available in the forward areas of 
the Southwest Pacific and, again, the theater 
had had little experience in their use. To 
save all possible space and to take advantage 
of theater experience, Alamo Force decided 
that bulk combat-loading would be em- 
ployed for all cargo not stowed aboard 
vehicles. 80 

Another problem was that of lighterage 
at the objectives. Since the AK's did not 
carry small craft with which to unload 
themselves provision had to be made to 
secure such boats. For Aitape, Alamo Force 
believed that one landing craft, tank 
(LCT), and twenty landing craft, mech- 
anized (LCM's) would be required on D 
Day and twice that number on D plus 1, 
when the second of the two AK's was 
scheduled to arrive. General Krueger there- 
fore requested that Allied Naval Forces set 
up an LCT-LCM convoy or its equivalent 



ra The water drag method could, of course, be 
used only for items such as canned rations which 
were to be used immediately ashore and which 
would not suffer from temporary immersion in salt 
water. 

60 Memo, Alamo G-3 Ping Div for ACofS G-3 
Alamo, 11 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; Memo, Alamo QM for 
ACofS G-4 Alamo, 21 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo 
G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



39 



in other landing craft to arrive at Aitape on 
D Day. 

Admiral Barbey would not approve this 
plan. He felt that it would not be practical 
for LCM's and LCT's to move to Aitape un- 
der their own power nor to be towed there 
by large ships. The distance from staging 
areas to Aitape would increase the possibility 
of mechanical failures on the part of the 
LCT's and LCM's moving under their own 
power. Towing would decrease the speed of 
the assault convoy, thereby increasing the 
possibility of Japanese air attacks on the con- 
voys and lessening chances for tactical sur- 
prise at the objectives. Admiral Barbey 
therefore felt that the Aitape unloading plan 
would have to be based on the use of small 
craft carried forward by the assault shipping 
scheduled to arrive on D Day. 61 

To obtain some additional lighterage, it 
was decided to carry extra landing craft on 
all large assault ships arriving at Aitape on 
D Day. 62 In addition, three landing ships, 
dock (LSD's) scheduled to arrive at Hol- 
landia and Aitape on D Day were ordered 
to make a rapid return trip to eastern New 
Guinea bases to pick up another load of 
small craft. On the return trip the LSD's 
were to carry a total of three LCT's and 
twenty-four LCM's to Aitape, which, to- 
gether with one LCT and six LCM's that 
could be loaded on D-Day shipping, was 
considered ample. It was hoped that this re- 

61 Rad, Alamo to CTF 76, WF-4237, 25 Mar 44, 
Rad, CTF 76 to PTF, 25 Mar 44, and Memo, 
ACofS G-3 Alamo for CofS Alamo, 27 Mar 44, 
no sub, all three in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandla, 
24-27 Mar 44; Memo for record, G-3 Alamo, 
28 Mar 44, sub: Status of Planning, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 28-30 Mar 44. 

62 Available documents do not indicate how many 
landing craft were to be so carried forward nor on 
which large ships they were to be carried. 



turn trip of the LSD's could be accomplished 
by the afternoon of D plus 3. Because of the 
distances involved, however, Admiral Bar- 
bey could not promise that the LSD's would 
arrive at Aitape on their second trip prior 
to the morning of D plus 4. 63 

Since it was not necessary to unload as 
much engineering construction equipment 
at Hollandia during the assault phase as at 
Aitape, the lighterage problem at Hollandia 
did not appear acute prior to the landings. 
It was thought probable that such shortages 
as might occur there would be eased by send- 
ing forward extra small craft aboard the 
ships of the first resupply convoy on D 
plus 8. 64 

A third problem of supply movement was 
to find a method of transporting supplies 
from the water's edge to dump areas by 
means other than the conventional, time- 
consuming individual handling of each item 
or container. Alamo Force decided that 
beach sleds — which could be dragged any 
place on a beach negotiable by wheeled 
vehicles, tractors, or bulldozers — would be 
the answer. About 150 sleds had been manu- 
factured in Australia for use by the 1st Cav- 
alry Division in the Admiralties, but they 
had not been ready in time for that opera- 
tion. Alamo Force obtained a high shipping 
priority for the movement of 34 sleds from 
Brisbane, Australia, to the staging area of 
the 24th Division at Goodenough Island. 

85 Memo, ACofS G-3 Alamo for CofS Alamo, 
31 Mar 44, no sub, and Rad, Alamo to CTF 76, 
WF-5127, 31 Mar 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 31 Mar-1 Apr 44; Rad, Alamo to CTF 
76, WF-834, 6 Apr 44, and Rads, CTF 76 to 
Alamo, 6 and 7 Apr 44, last three in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44. 

"Rad, CTF 76 to Com7thFlt, 7 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 Apr 44; CTF 77, 
Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 4-5 Apr 44. 



40 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



These sleds arrived at Goodenough too late 
to be loaded on the Hollandia convoy. 65 

Meanwhile, Alamo Force had discovered 
that another 26 sleds were on the way from 
Australia to Oro Bay, New Guinea, and 
that the remainder of the original 150 had 
supposedly been shipped during March to 
Gape Cretin, New Guinea. 80 From the 
middle of March to the middle of April the 
Alamo G^ Section directed a widespread 
search for these two shipments, all trace of 
which had apparently been lost. An officer 
from the Alamo Ordnance Section looked 
for the sleds to no avail at various Services 
of Supply bases in New Guinea and Aus- 
tralia. Finally, official channels having 
failed, the Alamo G— 4 Liaison Officer at 
Oro Bay, who was also engaged in the 
search, followed a hunch. He had a ser- 
geant from his liaison group informally 
establish contact with a supply sergeant at 
the Oro Bay Base Engineer Section. This 
supply sergeant immediately located 60 
beach sleds at the base engineer supply 
dump. 

These sleds were perhaps not the par- 
ticular ones for which the search was being 

63 Rad, G— 4 Alamo to Alamo G— 4 Liaison Offi- 
cer (LO) at Hq USASOS, WF-2088, 14 Mar 44, 
in 24th Div G-4 Ping Jnl, Hollandia; Rad, GHQ 
Chief Regulating Officer at Goodenough Island to 
G-4 Alamo, WA-409, 15 Mar 44, in Alamo G-4- 
Jnl Hollandia, 1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44 ; Memo, Asst 
ACofS G-4 Alamo for Alamo G-4 LO at USASOS 
Base B, 23 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo G-4 Jnl 
Hollandia, 11 Feb-2 Apr 44; Memo, ACofS G-4 
Alamo for Alamo Engr, 18 Apr 44, no sub, in 
Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 17-29 Apr 44; Ltr, 
Alamo G-4 LO at Hq USASOS to ACofS G-4 
Alamo, 9 Apr 44, in Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 
3-16 Apr 44. 

88 Memo, Asst ACofS G-4, Alamo for Alamo G-4 
LO at USASOS Base B, 23 Mar 44, no sub, and 
Memo, G— 4 Alamo for Alamo Engr and Alamo 
Ord O, 31 Mar 44, no sub, both in Alamo G-4 
Jnl Hollandia, 11 Feb-2 Apr 44. 



conducted, since their dimensions differed 
slightly from those specified. However, the 
liaison officer was acting on instructions 
from the Alamo G-^r to get some beach 
sleds to Cape Cretin, where some of the 
Hollandia-bound convoy was loading, no 
later than 1 7 April. He therefore drew the 
60 sleds from the base engineer and had 
them shipped forward from Oro Bay by 
small boat. Taking this action on his own 
responsibility, the liaison officer assured at 
least a partial supply of beach sleds for the 
Reckless Task Force. 87 

Problems of Subordinate Commands 

While sufficient supplies were on hand 
within the Southwest Pacific Area to provide 
assault units with almost all the materials 
they needed for initial operations, some 
shortages did exist which could not be filled 
prior to the assault. Other logistic difficulties 
were caused by the rather hurried organiza- 
tion of the task forces and by the fact that 
units assigned to the operation were scattered 
all over the eastern part of the theater. The 
Reckless Task Force G-4 complained that 
many units scheduled to engage in the oper- 
ation were assigned to the task force so late 
that it was nearly impossible to ascertain 
their supply shortages. General Krueger had 
originally approved a plan to make the task 
force responsible only for the supply of units 
specifically assigned to it. But the task force 
was later ordered to assure completeness and 
serviceability of supplies and equipment of 



*' Rads, Alamo G-4 LO at Base B to Alamo, 
WO-1702 and WO-1710, 14 and 15 Apr 44, re- 
spectively, and Ltr, Alamo G-4 LO at Base B to 
ACofS G-4 Alamo, 15 Apr 44, all three in Alamo 
G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 3-16 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA -AITAPE 



41 



all units scheduled to be controlled by the 
task force at Hollandia, whenever assigned. 03 

In order to carry out its broad supply 
duties, the Reckless Task Force G— 4 Sec- 
tion decentralized responsibility for the sup- 
ply and equipment of various attached units 
to the headquarters' Special Staff Sections 
of corresponding services. This step, which 
speeded communication between the task 
force headquarters and the scattered at- 
tached units, made possible quick and 
accurate determination of shortages and 
insured that steps would be taken to fill 
requisitions from attached organizations. 
Nevertheless, because so many units were 
assigned to the task force quite late, the 
Ordnance Section declared that determina- 
tion of numerous ammunition shortages 
could be made only on "suspicion." 68 

Another means by which the Reckless 
Task Force solved some of its logistic prob- 
lems was to make minor modifications in 
the Tables of Equipment and Basic Allow- 
ances of various units assigned or attached 
to the task force. Alamo Force approved this 
step only on the condition that such changes 
would not materially affect unit tonnage 
and space requirements, thereby creating a 
need for more shipping space or causing 
major last-minute changes in loading 
plans. 70 

Subordinate units of the Reckless Task 
Force had their own supply problems. On 8 

5S RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 65; Ltr, CofS 
I Corps [Reckless TF] to ACofS G-4 Alamo, 
15 Mar 44; Ltr, ACofS G-4 Alamo to CofS I 
Corps, 22 Mar 44; Rad, Alamo to I Corps, WF-96, 

I Apr 44. Last three in Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 

I I Feb-2 Apr 44. 

M Rad, I Corps to Alamo, RM-2362, 7 Apr 44, 
in Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 3-16 Apr 44; RTF 
Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 36, 65. 

" Rad, I Corps to Alamo, RM-1 103, 25 Mar 44, 
and Rad, Alamo to I Corps, WF-4218, 25 Mar 44, 
both in Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44. 



March, with little more than a week's notice, 
the 41st Division had to begin moving from 
Australia to Cape Cretin, New Guinea, 
where it was to stage for Hollandia. On such 
short notice a good portion of the division's 
supply shortages could not be filled on the 
Australian mainland. The division sent liai- 
son officers to Services of Supply headquar- 
ters, to Alamo Force headquarters, and to 
Services of Supply forward bases in New 
Guinea to find out where shortages could 
be filled and to start the movement of neces- 
sary items to Cape Cretin. Most shortages 
were filled without undue difficulty from 
New Guinea bases, but there was a perma- 
nent shortage of wheeled vehicles. The 4 1 st 
Division had no 2 J/2 -ton 6x6 trucks and 
only 50 percent of other authorized vehicles. 
Some vehicles were supplied in New Guinea, 
but the fulfillment of authorized allowances 
had to await post-assault shipment. 71 

The 24th Division, staging at Good- 
enough Island, had especial difficulty in 
procuring certain types of ammunition. 
The division was unable to procure enough 
2.36-inch bazooka rockets to build its stocks 
to the prescribed level of five units of fire. 
Theater stocks of bazooka rockets were so 
low that the success of future operations 
might have been jeopardized if all those 
available were issued for the Hollandia- 
Aitape attacks. Therefore, only three units 
of fire of the 2.36-inch rockets could be 
issued to the 24th Division itself and only 
two units of fire to attached units. 72 Some 



71 Rad, Alamo to 41st Div, WF-1247, 8 Mar 44, 
and Memo, ACofS G-4 41st Div for ADC 41st 
Div, 11 Mar 44, no sub, both in Alamo G-4 Jnl 
Hollandia, 1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44. 

72 Alamo Force Adm O 7, 6 Apr 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-23 Mar 44; Rad, Alamo to 
USASOS, WF^530, 27 Mar 44, and Rad, 
USASOS to Alamo, ABO-265, 27 Mar 44, both 
in Alamo G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44. 



42 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



lots of 60-mm. mortar ammunition supplied 
to the 24th Division were found to be de- 
fective — a condition which obtained for a 
large portion of theater stocks of this item. 
The division was advised that it would have 
to use the 60-mm. ammunition issued and 
that the defective lots were not to be fired 
over the heads of friendly troops. 73 One 
regiment of the division was initially short 
of both 60-mm. and 81 -mm. mortar shells. 
Most of these shortages were made up from 
stocks in Services of Supply bases in New 
Guinea, and the shells were shipped to 
Goodenough Island by small craft. The re- 
mainder was shipped by air from these bases 
or Australia to Goodenough just in time to 
be loaded on the 24th Division assault 
convoy. 74 

Like the Reckless Task Force, the 24th 
Division was not made responsible for the 
supply of many attached units until late in 
March. Some of these units had difficulty 
obtaining needed supplies and equipment, 
although they made efforts to fulfill their re- 
quirements. General Irving, the division 
commander, felt so strongly about the diffi- 
culties of attached units that he requested 
investigation of the failure on the part of 
some Services of Supply bases to provide 
spare parts and maintenance supplies for 
attached artillery and tank units. Spare parts 
for artillery mounts, tractors, and tanks were 
ultimately located at various Services of 
Supply installations and shipped to Goode- 
nough. However, all the desired spare parts 
for engineer and ordnance equipment could 
not be found before the division left its stag- 



"Ltr, Ord O 24th Div to Ord O I Corps, 29 
Mar 44, and atchd, undated Memo for record from 
Ord Sec. Alamo, in Alamo G— 4 Jnl Hollandia, 
1 1 Feb-2 Apr 44. 

" Ltrs, Alamo G-4 LO with 24th Div to AGofS 
G-4 Alamo, 6, 11, and 15 Apr 44, in Alamo G-4 
Jnl Hollandia, 3-16 Apr 44. 



ing area, and provision had to be made to 
ship such items to the objective on resupply 
convoys. 75 

The Persecution Task Force had few 
separate logistic problems. The principal as- 
sault element of the task force was the 163d 
Infantry of the 41st Division, and that regi- 
ment's supply problems were solved along 
with those of the division. The 167th Field 
Artillery Battalion, which was to support the 
163 d Infantry at Aitape, had some difficul- 
ties. Because of the shortage of shipping 
space, the battalion's organic transportation 
could not all be sent forward on assault con- 
voys. The unit's radio and wire would there- 
fore have to be manhandled at the objective, 
and liaison and fire control parties attached 
to the battalion were to be without their 
usual transportation. 76 

The Hollandia Tactical Plan 

While the problems of logistics were being 
solved, the tactical plans for the Hollandia 
and Aitape assaults were being drawn up. 
Limited knowledge of the terrain at the ob- 
jectives was a major obstacle to detailed 
planning, but by early April the ground, air, 
and amphibious force commanders, in co- 
operation, had solved most of their problems 
and had published their final tactical plans. 

Humboldt Bay 

Two regimental combat teams of the 41st 
Division were to start landing at Humboldt 

15 Notes of Conf between Ord O'i 24th Div and 

I Corps, 30 Mar 44, and atchd, undated notes by 
Alamo Ord O, in Alamo G— 4 Jnl Hollandia, 

II Feb-2 Apr 44; Ltrs, Alamo G 4 LO with 24th 
Div to ACofS G-4, 6 and 15 Aj&r 44, in Alamo 
G-4 Jnl Hollandia, 3-16 Apr 44. Apparently noth- 
ing ever came of General In/ing's request for 
investigation. 

79 167th FA Bn Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-2. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



43 



Bay on 22 April at 0700, high tide time in 
the Hollandia area. Simultaneously, two reg- 
imental combat teams of the 24th Division 
were to go ashore at Tanahmerah Bay. After 
securing their beachheads, the two divisions 
were to drive inland through successive 
phase lines to complete a pincers movement 
aimed at the rapid seizure of the Japanese- 
held airfields on the Lake Sentani Plain. 

It was intended that the main effort 
should be made from Tanahmerah Bay by 
the 24th Division, since known and sus- 
pected Japanese defenses seemed concen- 
trated at Humboldt Bay. While the Reck- 
less Task Force Reserve (the 34th Regi- 
mental Combat Team of the 24th Division) 
might actually be more needed by the 41st 
Division at Humboldt Bay, General Eichel- 
berger, the task force commander, planned 
to land the reserve at Tanahmerah Bay in 
an endeavor to exploit expected enemy 
weaknesses there. Task force headquarters 
and most of the reinforcing units and service 
organizations were also to land at Tanah- 
merah Bay. The 41st Division was to be pre- 
pared to drive inland from Humboldt Bay, 
but its role might be limited to containing 
Japanese strength which could otherwise 
move against the 24th Division. Neverthe- 
less, the 41st Division's plans were made to 
take advantage of whatever weaknesses 
might be found in enemy defenses at Hum- 
boldt Bay." 

The Humboldt Bay landing areas se- 
lected for the 41st Division, White Beaches 
1-4, presented complex problems of co- 
ordination and control. From the north- 
western and southeastern shores of the inner 
reaches of Humboldt Bay ran two low sand 
spits, divided one from the other by a nar- 
row channel leading from Humboldt Bay 

"RTF FO 1, 27 Mar 44; RTF Opns Rpt Hol- 
landia, p. 6. 



southwestward into smaller Jautefa Bay. 
Narrow, sandy beaches lined the Humboldt 
Bay side of the two spits, but the Jautefa 
Bay shore was covered with tangled man- 
grove swamps. 

White Beaches 1-3 were located on the 
two sand spits. None was ideally located in 
relation to division objectives, but the 
beaches were the best in the area. Access 
to the mainland from the spits could be 
obtained by movement along the Humboldt 
Bay side to inland ends of both peninsulas. 
The northern spit was flanked inland by an 
open-topped height called Pancake Hill, 
which was suspected of containing Japanese 
defensive installations. North of Pancake 
Hill, toward the town of Hollandia, lay 
wooded hills rising to a height of over 1,000 
feet. The southern spit opened on marshy 
ground along the southeastern shore of 
Humboldt Bay. 

White Beach 1 , about 800 yards long and 
70 wide, ran along the northern spit south 
from the point at which that peninsula 
joined the mainland. White Beach 2 was at 
the outer end of the same spit, while White 
Beach 3 was located at the northern end of 
the southern peninsula. White Beach 4 was 
on the western shore of Jautefa Bay and 
was situated just north of Pirn, a native 
village at the eastern terminus of a motor 
road running inland to Lake Sentani and 
the task force objectives. 78 

Close air support for the landings of the 
41st Division was the responsibility of planes 
aboard the carriers of Task Force 58. These 
aircraft were to maintain combat air patrols 
over enemy airstrips in the Hollandia area 
from earliest light on D Day until H plus 60 
minutes (0800), or until such patrols 

78 Letterpress Landing Force [41st Inf Div] 
FO 1, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 Annex to 41st Div Opns 
Rpt Hollandia. 




HUMBOLDT BAY 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



45 



proved unnecessary. Fighter planes engaged 
in these patrol missions were to have free- 
dom of action over the entire Hollandia re- 
gion until H minus 30 minutes, after which 
they were to confine their operations to tar- 
gets two or more miles inland from the 
landing beaches at both Humboldt and 
Tanahmerah Bays. 

At Humboldt Bay, from H minus 15 min- 
utes until H minus 4, or until the 41st Divi- 
sion's leading landing wave was within 800 
yards of the shore, carrier-based aircraft 
were to hit enemy antiaircraft batteries and 
other known or suspected defensive positions 
around Humboldt Bay, especially on hills 
near White Beaches 1 and 4. At H minus 4 
minutes, carrier-based bombers were to drop 
their bombs on the beaches in an attempt 
to detonate possible beach mines. At H 
minus 3, when the first wave was scheduled 
to be 500 yards from shore, antipersonnel 
fragmentation bombs were to be dropped 
on White Beach 1 . 

Naval fire support at Humboldt Bay was 
to be provided by three light cruisers and 
six destroyers of the U. S. Navy, firing to 
begin at H minus 60 minutes. Principal tar- 
gets were Hollandia, Pirn, heights north of 
White Beach 1, Cape Soedja at the north- 
western end of Humboldt Bay, and the four 
landing beaches. Two rocket-equipped land- 
ing craft, infantry (LCI's), were to accom- 
pany the leading boat waves, one to fire on 
Pancake Hill and the other to bombard high 
ground north of Pancake. A single destroyer 
was to accompany the first waves to bom- 
bard Capes Pie and Tjeweri (the tips of the 
two sand spits ) and to support movement of 
amphibian tractors (LVT's) from White 
Beach 2 to White Beach 4. 79 

The first landings to take place on White 

18 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44. 



Beach 1, at H Hour, were to be exe- 
cuted by the 3d Battalion, 162d Infantry. 
After landing, the battalion was to push 
rapidly north along the beach to the main- 
land and make ready to descend into Hol- 
landia from hills south of that town. One 
company was to move west from the main 
body to establish a block across a road con- 
necting Hollandia and Pirn. The seizure of 
the northern section of the Hollandia-Pim 
road was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 162d 
Infantry, which was to follow the 3d ashore 
on White Beach 1 . The 2d was to push up 
the road toward Hollandia and assist the 3d 
Battalion in securing that town. The 1st 
Battalion, 162d Infantry, was to land at 
White Beach 1 still later and assemble in- 
land as division reserve. 

White Beach 2 and Cape Pie were to be 
seized at H Hour by a reinforced rifle 
platoon from the 1st Battalion, 162d In- 
fantry. The beach was to be used by the 3d 
Battalion, 186th Infantry, which, aboard 
LVT's, was to move across the spit, push 
through the backing mangrove swamp, and 
land on White Beach 4 across Jautefa Bay. 
Then the battalion was to clear neighboring 
hills and advance south toward Pirn along 
the Hollandia-Pim road. The rest of the 
186th Infantry was to land on White Beach 
1 after H Hour and move inland around 
the upper end of the spit. The 1st Battalion, 
186th Infantry, was to move to Pim while 
the 2d Battalion assembled in division 
reserve. 

Seizure of White Beach 3 on the southern 
sand spit was designed as a security measure, 
and the beach was to be occupied by a rifle 
company of the 3d Battalion, 186th In- 
fantry, at H Hour. This unit was then to 
secure Cape Tjeweri, at the northern tip of 
the spit, and patrol southeastward from the 
peninsula along the shore of Humboldt Bay 




TANAHMERAH BAY 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA-AITAPE 



47 



to ward off or delay any Japanese counter- 
attacks from that direction. 

Artillery landing on D Day was to take 
up positions either on the northern spit or 
near the Hollandia-Pim road and from 
those positions provide support for infantry 
advancing inland and toward Hollandia. 
Antiaircraft artillery was to be grouped ini- 
tially on or near White Beach 1. The first 
duties of engineers were to unload ships, 
construct or improve exit roads from White 
Beach 1 to the Hollandia-Pim road, and 
improve the latter track. The 41st Recon- 
naissance Troop was to scout along the 
shores of Humboldt Bay as far as Tami Air- 
strip, eight miles southeast of Hollandia, and 
to Imbi Bay and Cape Soedja at the north- 
western limits of Humboldt Bay. 80 

Tanahmerah Bay 

Landing points chosen for the 24th Di- 
vision at Tanahmerah Bay were designated 
Red Beaches 1 and 2 and the principal 
thrust was to be made over the latter. Sit- 
uated on the east-central shore of Tanah- 
merah Bay, Red Beach 2 ran north and 
south about 800 yards, boasted clear ap- 
proaches from the sea, and was steeply 
inclined. It was known to be narrow and 
backed by a swamp, the nature of which 
could not be ascertained before the landing. 
Red Beach 1 was located at the southern 
end of Depapre Bay, a narrow south- 
eastern arm of Tanahmerah Bay. The nar- 
row approach to Red Beach 1 was flanked 
on each side by hills only 600 yards from the 
central channel, and the landing area was 
fronted by a coral reef, the characteristics 
of which were unknown before D Day. 

Red Beach 1 opened on a small flat area 



Letterpress LF FO 1, 9 Apr 44. 



at the native village of Depapre, near the 
beginning of the only road between Tanah- 
merah Bay and the inland airfields. Little 
was known about this road, but it was be- 
lieved to be extensively used by the Japa- 
nese, passable for light wheeled vehicles, and 
subject to rapid improvement. West and 
south of Red Beach 1 lay a swamp backed 
by heavily forested hills. To the north was 
more difficult terrain, dominated by three 
prominent hills overlooking both Red 
Beaches. The division expected to find a 
road running along the sides of these heavily 
forested hills over the two miles which 
separated the beaches. 81 

H Hour at Tanahmerah Bay was the same 
as for Humboldt Bay, 0700, and carrier- 
based aircraft from Task Force 58 were to 
support the landings of the 24th Division in 
much the same manner they were to support 
the 41st Division's assault. Naval fire sup- 
port at Tanahmerah Bay would be provided 
by two Australian cruisers and by Australian 
and American destroyers. Targets and tim- 
ing of naval support fires were similar to 
those to be used at Humboldt Bay. Most of 
the fire at Tanahmerah Bay was to be di- 
rected at Red Beach 2 and its environs and, 
prior to H Hour, only one destroyer was as- 
signed to fire on Red Beach 1 . After H Hour 
all fire support ships would be available to 
fire on targets of opportunity or objectives 
designated by the forces ashore. One LCI 
was to support the leading waves to Red 
Beach 2 with rocket and automatic weapons 
fire, which was to begin when the carrier- 
based planes finished their close support mis- 
sions (about H minus 4 minutes) and con- 
tinue until the first troops were safely 
ashore. 82 

" Noiseless Landing Force [24th Inf Div] FO 1, 
5 Apr 44, in 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 24ff. 
82 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3^4, 3 Apr 44. 



48 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



On the northern half of Red Beach 2 the 
19th Infantry (less one battalion in division 
reserve) was to land. The two assault bat- 
talions were to secure half the beachhead, 
establish left flank security for the rest of the 
division, prepare to assume responsibility for 
the protection of the entire beachhead, and 
undertake mopping up north of the beach. 
Simultaneously two battalions of the 21st 
Infantry were to land on the southern half 
of Red Beach 2. After securing their sectors 
of Red Beach 2, these battalions were to 
push overland and south toward Red Beach 
1 . The division planned to improve the road 
which supposedly connected the two beaches 
or, if necessary, construct a new road be- 
tween the two. 

Initial landings on Red Beach 1 were to 
be undertaken by three reinforced rifle com- 
panies bf the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, 
and were to begin at H plus 25 minutes, 
0725. The primary missions of this force 
were to start rapidly inland over the road 
leading to Lake Sentani and the airfields 
and to report the size and condition of pos- 
sible additional landing points in the 
Depapre area. Movement inland was to be- 
gin before the Japanese could organize de- 
fenses along that portion of the road which 
wound snake-like over rugged hills south and 
east of Depapre. 

The Allied Naval Forces originally ob- 
jected to a landing on Red Beach 1 and by 
arrangement with General Eichelberger had 
had this plan canceled. But General Irving, 
who wished to provide for every contingency 
in a landing area where terrain conditions 
were practically unknown, wanted the Red 
Beach 1 landing to remain in the plan, even 
if naval fire support for the assault could not 
be obtained. He considered it possible that 
failure to secure quickly the entrance to the 
Depapre— Lake Sentani road might have dis- 



astrous consequences were it found imprac- 
ticable to build a good road from Red Beach 

2 to Red Beach 1 . Seizing an opportunity 
to reopen the discussion of a landing on Red 
Beach 1 , General Irving made personal pleas 
to General Eichelberger and Admiral Bar- 
bey, and succeeded in having the landing 
reinstated in the plan. This proved one of 
the most important tactical decisions of the 
Hollandia operation. 83 

Preliminary Operations and the Approach 

Intelligence Operations 

Early in 1944 General MacArthur's G-2 
Section had noted that the Japanese were 
increasing their activities in the Wewak area 
and near-by Hansa Bay. As D Day for the 
Hollandia— Aitape operation approached, it 
was discovered that the bulk of the Japa- 
nese 18th Army was withdrawing from for- 
ward bases at Madang and Alexishafen and 
was moving rapidly westward across the 
Ramu and Sepik Rivers to Wewak and 
Hansa Bay. These activities seemed to indi- 
cate that the Japanese probably expected 
the next Allied attack to be aimed at the 
Wewak— Hansa Bay area. 

Every effort was made to foster in the 
mind of Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi, command- 
ing the 18th Army, the growth of the idea 
that a major assault in the Wewak sector was 
imminent. During March and early April, 
Wewak was heavily bombed by the Allied 
Air Forces, not only to prevent the Japanese 
from using their airfields there but also to 
lead the enemy to believe that the usual 
aerial softening-up process preceding an 
amphibious operation was taking place. 

8 ' Noiseless LF FO 1, 5 Apr 44; 24th Div Opns 
Rpt Hollandia, p. 23 ; Ltr, Gen Irving to Gen Ward, 

3 Nov 50, in OCMH files. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDI A -AITAPE 



49 



Minor naval bombardments of the Wewak 
and Hansa areas were carried out in March 
and early April, and PT's of the Allied 
Naval Forces patrolled actively along the 
coast north from Madang to Wewak. By 
various means propaganda was spread to 
convince the 18th Army that a landing was 
soon to be made at Wewak, and dummy 
parachutists were dropped in the same vi- 
cinity. Allied Naval Forces submarines 
launched empty rubber life rafts along the 
coast near Wewak in an endeavor to make 
the Japanese believe that reconnaissance pa- 
trols were active in that area. 84 

One effort was made to obtain terrain in- 
formation and knowledge of enemy troop 
strength and dispositions in the Hollandia 
area. About two weeks before the landing a 
Seventh Fleet submarine landed an Allied 
reconnaissance patrol at Tanahmerah Bay. 
The venture proved completely abortive. 
Local natives betrayed the patrol to the 
Japanese, and the members were killed, cap- 
tured, or dispersed. A few men of the origi- 
nal party eluded the enemy and were found 
alive after the Allied landings. 85 

Air Operations 

The scheduled strike by Task Force 58 
against the Palaus, designed both for stra- 
tegic support of the Hollandia operation and 
the destruction of enemy air and surface 

"Memo, GHQ SWPA for ANF SWPA, AAF 
SWPA, and Alamo, 30 Mar 44, no sub, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-4 Apr 44; Rad, Com7thFlt 
to CTF 75, 5 Apr 44, in GHQ Jnl, 5 Apr 44; 
Rad, CINCSWPA to COMINCH, 11 Apr 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 12 Apr 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 
pp. 17-20, 39-40. 

™ Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp. 
20-21. For a complete account of the scouting at- 
tempt at Hollandia see Comdr. Eric A. Feldt 
(RAN), The Coast Watchers (Melbourne, 1946), 
pp. 364-74. 



units, was carried out on 30-31 March. 
Other islands in the western Carolines, in- 
cluding Yap, Ulithi, Ngulu, and Woleai, 
were hit during the same two days or on 1 
April. The raids resulted in the loss for the 
Japanese of almost 150 aircraft either in the 
air or on the ground. Two enemy destroyers, 
four escort vessels, and 104,000 tons of 
merchant or naval auxiliary shipping were 
sunk and many other ships, of both combat 
and merchant classes, were damaged. In 
addition, airfields and shore installations at 
all objectives were damaged and the main 
channels into the Palau fleet anchorage at 
least temporarily blocked by mines. 

Unfortunately, Task Force 58 had been 
sighted by Japanese search planes prior to 
its arrival off the Palaus, and many enemy 
combat ships and a number of merchant 
vessels had fled from the area. The desired 
results were achieved, however — the enemy 
naval units at Palau were removed as a 
threat to the Hollandia-Aitape operation 
and driven back to more westerly bases. 
Task Force 58 lost twenty planes, but its 
ships suffered no damage. 33 

The efforts of Task Force 58 had been 
supplemented by South and Southwest 
Pacific aircraft which, from bases in eastern 
New Guinea and the Admiralties, bombed 
islands in the eastern Carolines and under- 
took many long reconnaissance missions. 
Meanwhile, Southwest Pacific aircraft had 
been neutralizing enemy air bases in western 
New Guinea and eastern islands of the 
Netherlands East Indies. Most of the strate- 
gic support missions flown to western New 
Guinea were undertaken by U. S. Fifth Air 

86 U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey, The Cam- 
paigns of the Pacific War, p. 207; Japanese Studies 
in WW II, No. 34, Naval Operations in the Western 
New Guinea Area, 1943-45, p. 11, and No. 60, The 
A-GO Operation, 1914, p. 2, copies in OCMH files. 



50 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Force planes while the Royal Australian Air 
Forces Command assumed responsibility for 
the majority of the strikes against the islands 
in the eastern Indies. These operations 
were intensified about six weeks before the 
landings at Hollandia and Aitape. From 
Wewak to the Vogelkop Peninsula of west- 
ern New Guinea, and from Biak to Timor, 
the Allied Air Forces destroyed Japanese 
planes and airfield installations, rendered 
many air bases at least temporarily unus- 
able, and hindered enemy attempts to fly 
air reinforcements to New Guinea from the 
Philippines.* 7 

Spectacular results were achieved by the 
Fifth Air Force at Hollandia, where the 
Japanese 6th Air Division had recently re- 
treated from Wewak and received strong 
reinforcements. The air unit conserved its 
planes, apparently waiting to see where the 
Allies would strike next. 88 The Japanese 
waited too long. 

The Fifth Air Force shifted the weight 
of its attack from the Wewak area to Hol- 
landia, and, during the period 30 March 
through 3 April, destroyed or damaged over 
300 Japanese aircraft, most of them on the 
ground. On 30 March, when over 100 
planes were destroyed at Hollandia, the 
Japanese were caught completely unpre- 
pared. Faulty intelligence, resulting partially 
from insufficient radar warning facilities, 
found many Japanese planes on the ground 
refueling after early morning patrols. Others 
had been left unattended upon receipt of 

" USSBS, op. ext., p. 1 79; GHQ SWPA OI 48, 24 
Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 24 Mar 44; Rad, CINC- 
SWPA to CINCPOA et al, CX-10718, 15 Apr 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 15 Apr 44; AAF SWPA OI 49 
(Rev), 30 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 30 Mar 44. 

88 AAF SWPA Int Sum 193, 25 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 24 Mar 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEPs 
737 and 742, 26 Mar and 3 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ 
Jnls, 26 Mar and 3 Apr 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 
4-9, 17-20. 



reports that a large Allied air formation had 
turned back eastward after bombing Aitape. 
Finally, earlier Fifth Air Force attacks had 
so cratered runways and taxiways of two 
of the three enemy fields at Hollandia that 
there was little room to disperse the planes. 
The Fifth Air Force, in a series of low-level 
bombing attacks, covered and aided by 
newly developed long-range fighters, found 
enemy aircraft parked wing tip to wing tip 
along the runways. By 6 April the Japanese 
had only twenty-five serviceable aircraft at 
Hollandia. 89 They made no attempt to re- 
build their air strength there and, after 3 
April, Fifth Air Force raids were met by 
only a small number of enemy fighter planes 
which made but desultory attempts at 
interception. 90 

The Japanese did build up a small con- 
centration of air strength farther west, at 
Wakde— Sarmi, and continued airfield de- 
velopment at still more westerly bases. The 
Fifth Air Force and Australian aircraft in- 
creased their efforts against these latter 
installations, 91 while planes of Task Force 58 
effectively neutralized Japanese air power 
at Wakde-Sarmi just prior to 22 April. 

"* 18th Army Opns III, 35-37; AAF SWPA Int 
Sum 197, 8 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 7 Apr 44; 
GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 742, 3 Apr 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 3 Apr 44. Many additional details of AAF 
SWPA action against Hollandia are provided in the 
Air Force's official history: Wesley Frank Craven 
and James Lea Cates (Eds.), The Pacific: Guadal- 
canal to Saipan, August 1942 to July 1944 (Chi- 
cago, 1950), pp. 587-98. 

" 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46; Japanese Studies 
in WW II, 31, History of the 2d Area Army, 1943- 
1945, pp. 30-40, copy in OCMH files; Alamo 
Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp. 45-48 ; AAF 
SWPA Int Sum 197, 8 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 
DSEI 760, 21 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 21 Apr 44. 
For additional information on the effec ts of Jap- 
anese air losses at Hollandia, se ejCh. I Vj below. 

01 GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Wakde- 
Sarmi, 8 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 8 Apr 44; GHQ 
SWPA, G-2 DSEI 760, 21 Apr 44. 



PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HOLLANDIA -AITAPE 



51 





Task Force 58's efforts at Wakde and Hoi- 
landia on D minus 1 and D Day bagged 
an estimated thirty-three aircraft shot down. 
Damage to planes on the ground at either 
objective was difficult to assess because of the 
degree of destruction previously achieved at 
both places by the Allied Air Forces. 02 

Attack Force Preparations 

Meanwhile, Allied ground and amphibi- 
ous forces had been engaged in final prep- 
arations and training for the coming assault 
and, on 8, 9, and 10 April, had undertaken 
last rehearsals. The 24th Division's rehearsal 



M USSBS, op. cit., p. 208; Alamo Force Opns 
Rpt Hollandia— Aitape, pp. 45^4-6. 



at Taupota Bay, on the coast of New Guinea 
south of Goodenough Island, was incom- 
plete. Little unloading was attempted, and 
the area selected did not permit the employ- 
ment of naval gunfire support. The 41st 
Division had a more satisfactory rehearsal, 
with realistic unloading and naval fire, near 
Lae, New Guinea. 93 

Final loading began on 10 April. LCI's 
of the Reckless Task Force left their load- 
ing points on 16 April in order to allow the 
troops aboard to disembark at the Admi- 
ralty Islands for a day of exercising, resting, 

93 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 37 ; CTF 77 
Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, 
p. 29; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 3; PTF Opns 
Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-^t Mar 44, p. 1 ; 41st Div Opns 
Rpt Hollandia, p. 1. 



52 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



and eating. Other vessels of Hollandia- 
bound convoys left the Goodenough Island 
and Cape Cretin staging areas on 1 7 and 1 8 
April. Ships carrying the Persecution Task 
Force moved out of the Finschhafen area 
on 18 April and on the same day rendez- 
voused with the vessels bearing the 41st 
Division toward the Admiralties. 

All convoys moved north around the east- 
ern side of the Admiralties and, at 0700 on 
20 April, the various troops assembled at a 
rendezvous point northwest of Manus 
Island. Moving at a speed of about nine 
knots, the massed convoys steamed west- 
ward from the Admiralties all day and at 
dusk turned southwest toward Hollandia. 
At a point about eighty miles off the New 
Guinea coast between Hollandia and 
Aitape, the Persecution Task Force con- 



voy — the Eastern Attack Group — broke off 
from the main body and swung southeast 
toward Aitape. The ships bearing the Reck- 
less Task Force proceeded to a point 
twenty miles offshore between Humboldt 
and Tanahmerah Bays. There, at 0130 on 
D Day, this convoy split. The Central At- 
tack Group, with the 41st Division aboard, 
turned southeast toward Humboldt Bay 
and arrived in the transport area at 0500. 
The ships of the Western Attack Group, 
carrying the 24th Division and the re- 
mainder of the Reckless Task Force, 
moved into Tanahmerah Bay at the same 
time. 94 

"RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, Map 1, p. 5; CTF 
77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay— 
Aitape, pp. 9-10; CTG 77.2 (Central Attack 
Group) Opns Rpt Humboldt Bay, p. 3; CTG 77.3 
Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-2. 



CHAPTER III 



The Hollandia Operation 



First light in the Hollandia area on 22 
April 1944 disclosed a heavily overcast sky 
from which a light drizzle intermittently fell 
upon the ships bearing the Reckless Task 
Force toward its objectives. (Map II) The 
weather gave no promise that aircraft 
abpard the carriers of Task Force 58, stand- 
ing offshore between Humboldt and Tanah- 
merah Bays, would be able to execute all 
tmeir assigned support missions. On the other 
Hand, the weather conditions aided Allied 
forces, for the approach of the convoys to 
Hollandia was at least partially concealed 
from Japanese eyes. Chances for local sur- 
prise seemed excellent. 

The Landings at Tanahmerah Bay 

The assault ships of the Western Attack 
Group, carrying the 24th Infantry Division 
to Tanahmerah Bay, anchored some 1 0,000 
yards off Red Beach 2, about a mile farther 
than planned. This change was due to bad 
weather, which obscured landmarks ex- 
pected by ships' pilots to guide them to the 
proper anchorages. The troops of the 24th 
Division quickly breakfasted and assault 
personnel then began clambering down nets 
into waiting landing craft of the 542d Engi- 
neer Boat and Shore Regiment. The transfer 
to small craft, although hampered by rough 
seas in the transport area, was completed 
about 0535, and the leading waves formed 
rapidly. 



The Assault 

Naval fire support vessels, operating un- 
der the command of Rear Adm. V. A. C. 
Crutchley ( RN ) , picked up their landmarks 
through the mist as best they could, and at 
0600 the roar of 8-inch guns from the heavy 
cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS 
Shropshire shattered the silence of the 
steaming tropical morning. 1 To this din was 
added the sharper crack of 5 -inch and 
4.7-inch weapons from American and Aus- 
tralian destroyers. In order to obtain ob- 
servation of important targecs, the fire 
support ships stood as close inshore as the 
weather conditions and incomplete knowl- 
edge of the waters at Tanahmerah Bay 
allowed. The fire continued until 0645, by 
which time 600 rounds of 8-inch and 1,500 
rounds of 5 -inch and 4.7-inch ammunition 
had been expended. The naval bombard- 
ment was carried out according to plan 
and without response from Japanese shore 

1 Information in this and the following subsec- 
tion is from: 24th Inf Div [Noiseless Landing 
Force] Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 56-79, 223-24; 
24th Div G-3 Jnl, Hollandia; 21st Inf Jnl, Hol- 
landia; 19th Inf Jnl, Hollandia; RTF G-3 Jnl Hol- 
landia; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Hum- 
boldt Bay-Aitape, p. 24; Ltr, CG 2d ESB to Comdr 
Alamo Force, 24 Apr 44, sub : Observations, D Day, 
Red Beach, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollafidia, 25-26 
Apr 44 ; draft MS History of the 2d Engineer Special 
Brigade, Ch. VII, "The Reckless Task Force," pp. 
13-20, copy in OCMH files; Co A, 1st Tank Bn, 
1st Mar Div, Opns Rpt, 15 Apr-13 May 44, pp. 
1-2 ; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 46. 



54 THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 





LANDINGS AT TANAHMERAH BAY. Landing craft heading toward Red BeacH2. 
Despite unfavorable weather, Task Force 58 managed to maintain planes on uir 
alert over the Hollandia area. 



defenses. At its conclusion Allied destroyers 
moved still closer inshore to fire on targets 
of opportunity. 

Despite the unfavorable weather, Task 
Force 58 had managed to maintain planes 
on air alert over the Hollandia area since 
dawn. No enemy aircraft flew up from the 
Hollandia fields, and the few apparently 
operational planes sighted on those strips 
were strafed. In general there were no 
indications that Japanese defenses or de- 
fenders existed in the Tanahmerah Bay area. 
Task Force 58's scheduled bombing and 



strafing missions for that region were there- 
fore canceled. 

As the leading wave of landing craft, ve- 
hicle and personnel ( LCVP's ) , approached 
Red Beach 2, which was obscured by smoke 
from the naval bombardment, a rocket 
barrage was laid on the landing area by one 
Seventh Fleet LCI and two landing craft, 
support (LCS's), of the 542d Engineer 
Boat and Shore Regiment. Machine guns 
mounted aboard the leading LCVP's kept 
up a steady fire against the beach. There 
was no answer from the Japanese, and the 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



55 



only opposition to the landing was scattered 
small arms and light automatic weapons 
fire from points far on the flanks of the 
beach and from a small island in Tanah- 
merah Bay. This fire was so quickly silenced 
by supporting destroyers that the assault 
waves suffered no casualties before reaching 
shore. 

The first group of LCVP's, carrying men 
of the 3d Battalion, 19th Infantry, and the 
2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, was eight or 
nine minutes late in reaching Red Beach 2. 
But this tardiness did not prevent a success- 
ful landing, and after orders were issued to 
add eight minutes to the starting time of 
each, succeeding waves were almost per- 
fectly timed. Tactical surprise was evidently 
complete. No Japanese defended the 
beaches and the two assault battalions had 
no difficulty occupying the initial beach- 
head. 

The 3d Battalion, 19th Infantry, quickly 
secured the northern portion of the beach- 
head and immediately dispatched patrols 
east and north to probe suspected enemy 
positions. The 1st Battalion, following the 
3d ashore, went into an assembly area to 
act as local reserve and to make ready to 
aid in unloading supplies at the water's edge 
if that proved necessary. The 2d Battalion, 
21st Infantry, took the southern half of Red 
Beach 2 with similar ease. The 3d Battalion 
of that regiment quickly followed the 2d 
ashore and sent Company I south to look 
for the trail expected to connect with Red 
Beach 1 at Depapre. 

Company A of the 21st Infantry led the 
way to Red Beach 1 aboard LVT's of the 
542d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 
protected by the 2d Engineer Special Bri- 
gade's Support Battery craft. Scheduled for 
0725, Company A's landing actually took 
place about twenty minutes late. LVT's on 



the flanks of the initial waves had to cross 
coral barrier reefs on their way to the shore, 
while in the center only two LVT's at one 
time were able to proceed abreast through 
a narrow channel in the reefs. The landing 
was unopposed, and the remainder of the 
1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, moved ashore 
quickly. 

Red Beach 1 contained a veritable maze 
of trails which crossed each other, recrossed, 
and wandered off toward all points of the 
compass. The 1st Battalion thus found it 
difficult to accomplish one of its principal 
missions — locating the beginning of the road 
leading inland to Lake Sentani and the air- 
fields. After an hour's search, the entrance 
to this important trail was discovered about 
500 yards south-southeast of Depapre. 
While that reconnaissance was under way, 
Company A secured and expanded the 
beachhead. Huts which had survived 
the naval bombardment were carefully 
searched, footpaths throughout the area 
were explored, a few Japanese stragglers 
were killed, and some potential supply- 
dispersal areas were located. 

Back at Red Beach 2, which had been in- 
tended as the principal landing area for both 
troops and supplies, operations were not pro- 
ceeding according to plan. General Irving, 
when he assumed command ashore at 0930, 
found the terrain at Red Beach 2 much more 
difficult than he or members of his staff had 
anticipated. A major change in landing 
plans, not only for the 24th Division but also 
for the rest of the Reckless Task Force, 
seemed imminent. 

The Landing Plans Are Changed 

Contrary to estimates, which had been 
based primarily on interpretation of aerial 
photographs, Red Beach 2 proved to be but 



56 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



thirty yards deep. Behind this narrow beach 
was discovered a wide swamp covering most 
of the area which the task force had planned 
to use for bivouacs and supply dumps. The 
swamp was soon found to be impassable for 
everything except individual infantrymen 
bearing only small arms. Power tools were 
useless in the morass. Neither time nor men 
and equipment were available to adapt Red 
Beach 2 to the role originally planned for it. 

A limited dispersal area, rendered inac- 
cessible by a small stream and by an arm of 
the swamp, was discovered at the northern 
edge of the beach, and ultimately the 542d 
Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment con- 
structed a road into this space. Artillery, 
ashore within an hour after the initial land- 
ing, was emplaced there to deliver fire on 
inland targets. But the fill used to build this 
road stopped the flow of the little stream 
which had drained the swamp into Tanah- 
merah Bay. To prevent a rise in the swamp's 
water level, a drainage canal was cut directly 
through the center of the beach. This pro- 
cedure speeded the outward flow of swamp 
water, lowered the water level a little, and 
created a small additional dry area behind 
the beach, but it did not provide sufficient 
dry land for dispersal of all the troops and 
supplies scheduled to land on Red Beach 2. 

Meanwhile, more obstacles to the execu- 
tion of the original logistic plans had been 
discovered. First, it proved impracticable to 
build planned roads inland 500 yards on 
both sides of Red Beach 2 to dry areas be- 
hind the swamp. Then it was found that 
there was no road connecting Red Beach 2 
with Red Beach 1 or with the Depapre-Lake 
Sentani road. This was an especially serious 
circumstance, for the landing plans had 
called for moving almost all troops and sup- 
plies overland from Red Beach 2 to the road 
inland. Construction of a road between the 



two beaches was soon found impracticable 
and when, after a day and a half of hard 
work, engineers had succeeded in driving 
a few yards of road into the hills south 
toward Red Beach 1, the project was dis- 
continued. The small completed stretch 
did serve some useful purpose. On D Day 
two batteries of 105-mm. howitzers were 
dragged along the road as far as possible to 
a cramped position on a little ridge immedi- 
ately south of Red Beach 2. From this site 
the howitzers could deliver some fire support 
for troops advancing inland from Red Beach 
1 , but the direction of this fire was limited by 
a number of hills near by. The same stretch 
of road also provided dispersal space for a 
few of the many vehicles which had been 
unloaded at Red Beach 2 on D Day. 

Other difficulties were encountered at 
Red Beach 2. As soon as LST's touched 
shore, they began disgorging tanks, 90-mm. 
antiaircraft weapons, and 155-mm. artillery. 
Practically all the artillery mounts mired to 
their hubs in deep mud at the inner side of 
the beach. Bulldozers then had to be taken 
off essential road construction projects to 
pull the vehicles out of the way. The 2d and 
3d Platoons of Company A, 1st Marine 
Tank Battalion, ashore at 0830, could not 
be used tactically and had to find space to 
bivouac on the beach or on the road to the 
south. When it was found that the available 
beach area was inadequate to hold the many 
tracked and wheeled vehicles still aboard 
the LST's, work was redirected to unloading 
bulk cargo. Roller conveyors were set up on 
the beach but could not be extended into 
LST cargo decks because those decks were 
still so tightly packed with vehicles. A long 
stream of men had to proceed to the stern 
of each LST to bring out bulk supplies 
by hand through narrow spaces between 
vehicles. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



57 




UNLOADING LST'S, Red Beach 2. 



Since it was impossible to move the sup- 
plies inland they were piled on the beach, 
where many stacks of boxes or crates soon 
reached heights up to eight feet. The beach 
quickly became so crowded that it was soon 
obvious that the efforts of Alamo Force to 
secure beach sleds for the 24th Division had 
been in vain — there was simply no room to 
use them. But, despite the seemingly patent 
impossibility of finding room for all men and 
supplies on Red Beach 2, the APA's and 
LST's bearing cargo for the division's two 
assault regiments were unloaded by 1900 on 
D Day. By that time the beach was almost 
solidly covered with supplies, troops, tanks, 
vehicles, and gun emplacements. It was 



clear that supplies and personnel of Head- 
quarters, Reckless Task Force, the task 
force reserve, miscellaneous service units, 
and various organizations attached to the 
24th Division could not possibly be squeezed 
onto the beach. Unless Red Beach 1 pro- 
vided materially greater dispersal space, 
convoys scheduled to reach Tanahmerah 
Bay on D plus 1 and D plus 2 would have 
to be held at eastern New Guinea ports or 
diverted to other landing areas. 

Now the beneficial results of General 
Irving's determination to keep Red Beach 1 
in the landing plans became apparent. Be- 
hind that beach were found some additional 
dry, flat dispersal areas. Access to the beach 



58 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



was hampered by the fronting reef, but the 
24th Division solved this problem by setting 
up a shuttle system from Red Beach 2. 
Shallow-draft boats carried the supplies to 
the entrance of Depapre Bay. There, on the 
water, materiel was transferred to LVT's 
which served as ferries to the shore. At high 
tide small boats could reach Depapre — only 
two could beach there at a time — and at 
1730 LCM's took the 2d Platoon and the 
command section of Company A, 1st Tank 
Battalion, to Depapre through the reefs. 
Ultimately the water approach to Depapre 
was improved when naval demolition per- 
sonnel 2 blasted a wider and deeper channel 
through the reef, thus giving small landing 
craft continuous access to Red Beach 1 . 

The shuttle to Depapre continued 
throughout the night of 22-23 April. Some 
of the congestion on Red Beach 2 was 
thereby relieved and, by dint of almost 
superhuman effort, the cargo from seven 
LST's of the D plus 1 convoy was put on 
that beach on the 23d, and the AKA of the 
D plus 1 echelon was unloaded by noon on 
the 24th. Transshipments to Red Beach 1 
were continued, but by noon on 23 April 
it had become obvious that there was no 
space to be found anywhere along the shores 
of Tanahmerah Bay to unload the supplies 
and troops aboard the D plus 2 convoy. 

Meanwhile, advance elements of the 24th 
Division had pushed far inland on their way 
toward the airfields over the Depapre-Lake 
Sentani road. Contrary to expectations, this 
road was found to be ungraded and ex- 
tremely narrow. It was a mere track which, 
winding in a series of hairpin turns over the 
Takari Hills east of Depapre, hung precari- 
ously along the sides of slopes that in some 

* From a mine sweeper ( YMS ) accompanying the 
Western Attack Group. The men worked under the 
direction of the Naval Beach Party commander. 



cases were as steep as 60 degrees. It was far 
from being the well-traveled motor road ex- 
pected. Neither the Army's wheeled vehicles 
nor the Marine's tanks could reach the crest 
of the Takari Hills over this road. The tanks 
were relegated to the role of perimeter de- 
fense around Depapre. 3 Heavy construction, 
which was destined to be impeded by many 
landslides, had to be undertaken before the 
trail inland could be used for a main supply 
line as originally planned. Until it was im- 
proved, only a small number of men could 
be sustained over the track, and all their 
supplies would have to be hand-carried for- 
ward from Depapre. 

To Headquarters, Reckless Task Force, 
the logistic difficulties inherent in support- 
ing a large-scale drive inland over the 
Depapre-Lake Sentani trail far outweighed 
the tactical advantages of such a movement. 
The 41st Infantry Division, on the other 
hand, was meeting with unexpectedly rapid 
success in its drive to the airfields from 
Humboldt Bay, the shores of which had been 
found better suited to troop and supply dis- 
persal than those at Tanahmerah Bay. The 
Reckless Task Force staff therefore rec- 
ommended that a sweeping change in plans 
be made. General Eichelberger, accepting 
these recommendations, decided to make the 
Humboldt Bay area the principal task force 
landing point and to change the emphasis of 
attack to the 41st Division's drive inland. 
Accordingly, about noon on D plus 1, the 
D plus 2 convoy to Tanahmerah Bay was 
diverted to Humboldt Bay. Task force head- 



3 There being no possible way to employ the tanks 
in their proper roles in the Tanahmerah Bay area, 
they merely bivouacked in that region until 2 May, 
when they were sent to Humboldt Bay. There, the 
services of the tank company were not needed, and 
on 4 May the company left the Hollandia area via 
LST to rejoin the rest of the 1st Tank Battalion on 
Pavuvu Island in the Solomons on 13 May. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



59 



quarters, the task force reserve, and miscel- 
laneous service units, all of which were still 
awaiting a chance to unload at Tanahmerah 
Bay, were also directed to move to the Hum- 
boldt Bay beaches. A part of the task force 
headquarters which had already landed on 
Red Beach 2 was reloaded on an LST and 
sent to Humboldt Bay. 4 

Red Beaches 1 and 2 had proved able to 
provide dispersal areas for a bare minimum 
of supplies for the 24th Division's two as- 
sault regiments, but they were inadequate 
for the larger load assigned to them prior to 
the landings. The division would therefore 
have to support its drive inland with only 
the supplies and equipment unloaded at 
Tanahmerah Bay through D plus 1 . 

The 24th Division's Drive to the Airfields 

Leaving Company A at Red Beach 1 , the 
1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, commanded 
by Lt. Col. Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., had 
started up the Depapre-Lake Sentani trail 
at 0837 on D Day. s At any one of the 
numerous hairpin turns and defiles over the 
first two or three miles of the track, a squad 
of Japanese riflemen could have delayed an 
entire infantry division. Surprisingly, no 
determined opposition was encountered. 
Enemy defensive installations (many of 
them incomplete ) at important points were 

4 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 46. 

' Unless otherwise indicated, information on the 
24th Division's drive to the airfields is based on: 
24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 60-100, 180- 
82, and 191-93; 24th Div G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 21st 
Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 2-3; 21st Inf Jnl Hol- 
landia; Notes, 27 Oct 50 and 15 Dec 50, provided 
by Lt Col Chester A. Dahlen [ex-CO 3d Bn 21st Inf] 
and Mr. Clarence E. Short [ex-S-3, 21st Inf], in 
OCMH files; Ltr, Brig Gen Charles B. Lyman to 
Gen Ward, 23 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH files. The 
bulk of Company A, 21st Infantry, after securing 
Red Beach 1 and finding the trail entrance, re- 
mained on the beach until 24 April. 



found to be unoccupied. The Japanese had 
not been ready for the attack and those who 
had been in the Tanahmerah Bay area had 
apparently fled in panic when the 24th 
Division began to land. The 1st Battalion, 
21st Infantry, was therefore able to ad- 
vance as rapidly as terrain conditions and 
necessary security measures permitted. 

The First Day of the Advance 

Moving through fire lanes down which 
no bullets flew and past pillboxes in early 
stages of construction, the battalion column 
reached the village of Mariboe at 1047 
hours. Only a few scattered enemy rifle 
shots had been encountered during this 
march and the village was secured without 
opposition. Over three miles by trail inland 
from Depapre, Mariboe was the 24th Divi- 
sion's first inland objective. It was evident 
from scattered Japanese equipment in and 
around Mariboe that the Japanese had 
evacuated that village not long before the 
1st Battalion's arrival. 

Colonel Clifford now halted his men. 
Since radio communication with the divi- 
sion command post on Red Beach 2 had 
been lost, he sent messengers back over the 
tortuous trail to report progress to General 
Irving. At the same time patrols were sent 
toward Kantome, nearly two miles southeast 
of Mariboe. They reported few signs of 
enemy activity along the trail beyond Mari- 
boe. Colonel Clifford apparently did not 
wait to re-establish contact with higher 
headquarters but, acting on his patrols' re- 
ports, ordered the battalion to push on. En- 
countering little opposition along the main 
trail, the unit reached Kantome" about noon. 

From that village patrols were sent almost 
ten miles eastward along the trail through 
Paipou, Jangkena, Waibron-Baroe, and 



60 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Waibron-Bano to Dazai, the division's inter- 
mediate objective. The patrols encountered 
no active resistance, although signs of recent 
enemy occupation abounded at numer- 
ous points along the trail to Dazai. Colonel 
Clifford then sent the main body of the bat- 
talion on to Jangkena, about eight miles by 
trail inland from Depapre. At Jangkena the 
advance was again halted because night was 
approaching and because only sporadic 
radio contact could be maintained with regi- 
ment or division headquarters. 

Colonel Clifford possessed little or no 
knowledge of the situation to the rear other 
than the difficulties presented by terrain. 
Ahead, 10,000 Japanese were thought to be 
concentrated around the airfields. Jangkena 
was on flat, swampy ground and was not an 
easily defensible position. Should the 1st 
Battalion push on to Dazai, also on flat 
ground, Japanese troops might outflank the 
unit, cut its line of communications to De- 
papre, and destroy it at leisure. If the Japa- 
nese bypassed the battalion they could cut 
off the advance of the rest of the 21st Infan- 
try at any one of the many defiles over the 
first two or three miles of the trail inland 
from Depapre. Colonel Clifford therefore 
decided to pull his men back to Kantome 
for the night, leaving only outposts along the 
trail east of that village. Kantome was lo- 
cated near the foot of the Takari Hills, which 
he thought would present a serious obstacle 
to any Japanese flanking maneuvers. 

The soundness of Colonel Clifford's de- 
cision was demonstrated about midnight 
when a small Japanese force, which had 
apparently moved overland around the 1st 
Battalion's outposts, struck the battalion's 
left. The jungled hills in the Kantome 
neighborhood prevented further enemy 
movement and the Japanese force, although 
it managed to keep the 1st Battalion awake 



most of the night, did not penetrate the 
perimeter. At dawn on the 23d the Japa- 
nese gave up their attempts to cut the trail 
to the rear and withdrew. 

About the time that the 1st Battalion had 
started withdrawing to Kantome for the 
night, radio communications with regi- 
mental headquarters had been re-estab- 
lished. It was then learned that the 3d 
Battalion, 21st Infantry (less Company I), 
had moved from Red Beach 2 to Depapre. 
During the morning of D Day the 3d Bat- 
talion, under the command of Lt. Col. 
Chester A. Dahlen, had been engaged in 
probing the southern flank of Red Beach 2. 
It had soon become apparent, however, that 
no Japanese were in that area, and General 
Irving had accordingly ordered the unit to 
move to Red Beach 1 to support the advance 
of the 1 st Battalion. This move started about 
1400 and as each element of the battalion 
reached Red Beach 1, it started up the 
Depapre-Lake Sentani trail. Company I 
continued overland through the hills be- 
tween Red Beaches 1 and 2. By nightfall the 
battalion's forward elements had reached 
the crest of the Takari Hills. The rest of the 
unit (still less Company I) continued mov- 
ing after dark to close in on the leading 
elements, finally bivouacking along the trail. 

Meanwhile, the remainder of the 21st 
Infantry had also begun moving to Red 
Beach 1, responsibility for the defense of 
Red Beach 2 passing to the 19th Infantry. 
Col. Charles B. Lyman, commanding the 
21st Infantry, moved his command post to 
Depapre about noon. By the morning of the 
next day, 23 April, the bulk of the 2d Bat- 
talion was concentrated at Depapre. Com- 
pany I rejoined the regiment about 1400 
the same day, after a march over very rough 
and jungled terrain from Red Beach 2. 
Colonel Lyman now had his entire regiment 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



61 



under his control, ready to exploit the initial 
success of the 1st Battalion. Late at night 
on the 22d, he instructed the regiment to 
resume the advance eastward at 0700 on 
D plus 1. 

Logistic Problems Delay the Advance 

The 1st Battalion began moving out of 
Kantome on schedule on the 23d and by 
1 045 had re-entered Jangkena. Shortly after 
1 200 the unit reached Dazai, farthest limit 
of patrol advance the previous day, and then 
pushed on to Sabron. No signs of enemy op- 
position other than a few rifle shots from 
woods on both sides of the trail had been 
encountered. At 1445, after lunch and a rest, 
the battalion moved cautiously out of Sab- 
ron. About 1 ,500 yards beyond that village 
a small stream crossed the main track. This 
crossing had been reconnoitered by patrols 
early in the afternoon, and there had been 
found the first signs of organized resistance. 

Two platoons of Company B, leading the 
advance from Sabron, safely crossed the 
small stream but soon found themselves in 
the middle of a well-concealed Japanese am- 
bush on the east bank. Rifle and heavy 
machine gun fire made the stream's steep 
banks untenable, and the forward platoons 
hurriedly withdrew to the west, leaving four 
dead men behind. Over his now well-func- 
tioning radios, Colonel Clifford requested 
air support. The message was relayed to 
Task Force 58 carriers lying offshore and 
three planes quickly appeared to strafe the 
enemy position. In addition, the 1st Battal- 
ion's 81 -mm. mortars and heavy machine 
guns were also brought forward to lay a 
barrage on the enemy defenses. But all this 
fire failed to dislodge the Japanese. In an 
attempt to outflank the enemy position, 
Colonel Clifford sent small patrols across the 



stream both above and below the crossing. 
These efforts proved futile, for the patrols 
could not locate the enemy flanks and were 
kept away from the main Japanese position 
by small arms fire. After a lively fire fight 
at the crossing, which lasted almost to dusk, 
Colonel Clifford decided to pull back toward 
Sabron so that mortars and artillery could 
fire freely on the stream-crossing area. 

During the night 105-mm. howitzers of 
the 5 2d Field Artillery Battalion fired on the 
enemy positions at the crossing for over an 
hour. The Japanese replied with mortar, 
grenade, and small arms fire which was di- 
rected against the 1st Battalion's perimeter 
near Sabron. About 2100 a Japanese field 
piece, believed to have been a dual purpose 
90-mm. antiaircraft gun, opened fire on the 
battalion from the vicinity of the airfields. 
The enemy's harassing fire continued almost 
to dawn on the 24th, and again the Ameri- 
can unit was kept awake much of the night. 

The rest of the 21st Infantry was now 
echeloned along the trail behind the 1st 
Battalion. The 3d Battalion, which had ad- 
vanced to within 1,000 yards of Dazai, was 
also harassed by Japanese fire during the 
night of 23-24 April, but the area of the 2d 
Battalion (which had moved up to Mariboe 
from Depapre) was quiet. The 2d and 3d 
Battalions' advances had been made with- 
out opposition. 

Even with the support of the remainder 
of the regiment echeloned on the trail to 
its rear, the position of the 1st Battalion was 
not enviable. The unit was over twelve miles 
by trail inland; it had only enough rations 
left for breakfast; and it was running low 
on ammunition. No supplies had been re- 
ceived since landing, and hard fighting on 
the 24th seemed unavoidable. 

Fortunately the 24th Division's plans for 
the Hollandia operation had taken into 



62 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



consideration many of the potential logistic 
problems that might be encountered in the 
Tanahmerah Bay area. The division G-4 
Section had made a detailed study which 
had shown that a full infantry regiment 
could be supplied by hand-carry from Red 
Beach 2 over the Depapre-Lake Sentani 
trail inland as far as Jangkena. When no 
road connecting Red Beach 2 with Red 
Beach 1 had been found, the division moved 
the main supply point to Depapre, from 
which the advance inland would be sup- 
ported. With this change in plans, the G-4 
Section undertook new computations and 
calculated that the hand-carry distance 
could be extended to Dazai. This conclusion 
was based on the assumption that adverse 
weather conditions would not make the 
Depapre-Lake Sentani road nearly im- 
passable. 

On 23 April heavy rains started to turn 
the road into a quagmire through which 
struggling men could scarcely carry their 
own equipment and food, to say nothing of 
extra supplies for the leading battalion. 
By evening on that day logistic support of 
the 21st Infantry had therefore become a 
major problem. There was no question but 
that the regiment would have to be sup- 
ported by hand-carry, for it was estimated 
that at least two weeks' hard work by en- 
gineers would be required before the road 
from Depapre as far as Mariboe could be 
made passable even for jeeps. But the 1st 
Battalion had already advanced east of 
Dazai, beyond which point, according to 
the G-4 estimates, support by hand-carry 
would be next to impossible. 

When the 2d and 3d Battalions had 
moved inland on the 23d, both had carried 
extra supplies, principally food and ammu- 
nition, but these supplies were inadequate 
to support the 1st Battalion as well. The 



24th Division thereupon decided to increase 
the number of men assigned to hand-carry- 
ing duties. The overwater shuttle system 
from Red Beach 2 to Depapre was now 
working smoothly and few combat troops 
were needed at Red Beach 2 to assist in 
moving supplies or to defend that area, 
which had proved to be bare of Japanese 
forces. Therefore the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry (initially division reserve), was 
moved to Depapre on D plus 1. The Anti- 
tank and Gannon Companies of both the 
19th and 21st Infantry Regiments were also 
dispatched to Red Beach 1 on the same day. 
To speed the flow of supplies inland, all 
these troops were stationed at various points 
along the trail from Depapre to Mariboe. 
The supplies were moved by a combination 
of a shuttle system and forward displace- 
ment of companies. 

But the best efforts of three infantry bat- 
talions and four antitank or cannon com- 
panies proved inadequate to assure con- 
tinued support of the 1st Battalion, 21st In- 
fantry. In addition, trail conditions were 
becoming worse and hand-carrying progres- 
sively more difficult. General Irving there- 
fore requested that aircraft (the nearest base 
for which was at Nadzab, almost 500 miles 
southeast of Hollandia) drop supplies at 
Jangkena on 24 April so that the 1st Battal- 
ion could continue its advance without de- 
pending on hand-carrying parties. 

General Irving himself reconnoitered the 
trail a little way forward from Depapre dur- 
ing the afternoon of 23 April. After his trip 
he realized that continued rapid advance in- 
land was no longer possible under the hand- 
carry scheme. He also learned that the 
weather was so threatening that little de- 
pendence could be placed on air supply. 
Accordingly, late in the afternoon of the 
23d, he ordered the 21st Infantry to con- 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



63 




HAND-CARRYING SUPPLIES. Men of the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, carrying 

supplies forward. 



solidate its forward positions at Sabron and 
Dazai. Elements of the regiment not already 
at those two villages were to remain eche- 
loned to the rear for hand-carrying duties. 
Further offensive efforts were to be limited 
to patrol action until the inland supply sit- 
uation could be improved. 

Supply Difficulties, 24-25 April 

By exhaustive work during the afternoon 
of 23 April and the following night, rear 
elements of the 21st Infantry had managed 
to build up a small reserve of rations and 



ammunition at Dazai. The next morning the 
1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, moved to 
Depapre from Red Beach 2 to augment the 
number of hand-carrying parties along the 
road inland. The Cannon and Antitank 
Companies of the same regiment, carrying 
extra supplies, pushed over the Takari Hills 
to Mariboe and Jangkena, respectively. 

Inland, most efforts during the day were 
limited to patrolling. In the morning Gen- 
eral Irving slogged his way overland to 
Colonel Lyman's forward command post 
with the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry. After 
learning about the situation in the forward 



64 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



area, he instructed Colonel Lyman to ad- 
vance no farther than the point at which the 
two forward battalions, the 1st and 3d, 
could supply themselves from Dazai. Ac- 
cordingly the 3d Battalion spent the day 
sending out flanking patrols and closing up 
on the 1st. The latter unit sent out patrols 
to the scene of the previous day's ambush 
and found that artillery and mortar fire had 
killed or driven away from that area almost 
all the Japanese defenders. At nightfall the 
1st Battalion's position had been little 
changed from that which it had held at day- 
light, forward displacement of the main 
body having been limited to less than 200 
yards. The 3d Battalion established a new 
perimeter about 500 yards to the rear of the 
1st, while the 2d Battalion was spread from 
Dazai back to Mariboe, its companies act- 
ing as links in an ever-growing chain of 
hand-carrying parties. 

To the rear of the 2d Battalion, additional 
links had been established by dark on the 
24th. Most of the 2d Battalion, 19th In- 
fantry, and the Antitank and Cannon Com- 
panies of the 21st Infantry had been hand- 
carrying supplies from Depapre to Mariboe 
during the day and by nightfall had set up 
a small supply dump at the latter village. 
The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, had been 
handling supplies all day at Red Beach 1 
and had also taken over responsibility for 
the security of that beach, allowing Com- 
pany A, 21st Infantry, to rejoin its battalion 
inland. The Cannon Company of the 1 9th 
Infantry had moved forward with supplies 
to Mariboe, and the Antitank Company of 
the same regiment had reached Jangkena 
with some rations and ammunition. The 
Cannon and Antitank Companies of both 
the 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments had, 



perforce, left their organic weapons and 
transportation behind them and were acting 
purely as service troops. 

In spite of the efforts of all these units, the 
supply of rations, ammunition, and medical 
equipment for the two advance battalions 
was but little augmented on the 24th. Worse 
still, the scheduled airdrop at Jangkena had 
been canceled because of poor weather, and 
the continuing rain was turning most of the 
Depapre-Lake Sentani road into a sea of 
mud. There was little hope for quick im- 
provement in the situation. 

But General Irving was optimistic and he 
felt sure that conditions would improve on 
the 25th. He requested another airdrop 
which, in order to get the supplies farther 
forward, he wanted made at Dazai. On 
the basis of this request and because the 
number of carrying parties along the main 
trail had been increased and some supplies 
had been moved to Dazai on the 24th, the 
division commander ordered the 21st In- 
fantry to continue its advance the next day. 
First objectives were wooded hills on either 
side of the main road about 3,000 yards 
beyond Sabron. 

The 25th of April dawned heavily over- 
cast and rain threatened, auguring ill for 
the proposed airdrop. Nevertheless, ad- 
vance patrols of the 1st Battalion, 21st 
Infantry, moved out at 0500. Colonel Ly- 
man planned to have the two forward bat- 
talions advance on a wide front to make 
sure that no Japanese would be bypassed 
and left behind to cut the tenuous supply 
line back to Depapre. But the jungle was so 
thick on both sides of the trail that it was 
impossible for the main bodies to move 
rapidly in the dense undergrowth. The bulk 
of the two battalions therefore pushed for- 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



65 



ward in column along the road, while nu- 
merous small patrols kept up as best they 
could in the jungle off the trail. 

After an artillery bombardment of known 
and suspected enemy positions, the rest of 
the two battalions followed the advance pa- 
trols. Only scattered small arms fire slowed 
the advance, although it was necessary to 
halt from time to time as patrols searched 
the terrain far to both sides of the main trail. 
About 1115 the advance stopped tempo- 
rarily while demolition teams destroyed 
two recently abandoned Japanese armored 
vehicles.* 

The first objectives were cleared by noon, 
at which time the 1st Battalion halted to 
rest at a point about 1 ,000 yards short of the 
next natural barrier, a branch of the Dejaoe 
River. Soon 1st Battalion patrols reached 
the river. A small enemy delaying position 
at the crossing — a ford — was quickly out- 
flanked by the 21st Infantry patrols and by 
midafternoon patrols had moved across the 
stream toward Julianadorp, a farm settle- 
ment to the east. Meanwhile, automatic 
weapons fire had been received from Japa- 
nese guns emplaced on high ground north 
of the ford. Scouts sent out to locate the 
source of this fire found enemy antiaircraft 
guns protected by riflemen and machine 
gunners. The Japanese positions were soon 
neutralized by mortar fire, and the main 
bodies resumed the advance about 1530. 

Progress was slow during the rest of the 
afternoon. Japanese patrols which threat- 
ened the line of communications became 
active north of the main road, and it was 
necessary for the 21st Infantry to send out 
its own combat patrols to hunt down and 
disperse the Japanese parties. These opera- 

" One report states that these vehicles were light 
tanks, but all other sources describe them as ar- 
mored cars or trucks. 



tions, which delayed the advance of the 
main body, were not finished until 1700. 
Then Colonel Lyman halted the advance 
for the night. The 1st Battalion dug in on 
the nose of a low hill about 500 yards west 
of the Dejaoe River branch crossing and 
approximately 125 yards north of the 
Depapre— Lake Sentani trail. The 3d Bat- 
talion and regimental headquarters biv- 
ouacked for the night in the vicinity of the 
day's first objectives, to the rear of the 1st 
Battalion. 

The supply situation in the forward area 
had been little improved during the 25th. 
Rain had fallen steadily all day, there had 
been no airdrop, and the Depapre— Lake 
Sentani road had become practically im- 
passable. The 2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, 
had moved forward through Sabron to 
Dazai, laboriously hand-carrying supplies 
as it struggled eastward in the rain and mud. 
By this means small supply dumps had been 
built up at both villages by dusk, but the 
battalion's displacement had left a large gap 
in the carrying line. West of Dazai the next 
sizable carrying party was the Antitank 
Company of the 19th Infantry, at Paipou. 
Behind that unit was the Cannon Company, 
19th Infantry, at Mariboe. General Irving 
ordered both units to move at dawn on the 
26th to Dazai, carrying with them all 
possible supplies. 

These displacements would leave the 
trail from Dazai west to Mariboe bare of 
hand-carrying parties, thus disrupting the 
supply relay system. General Irving there- 
fore ordered the 1st Battalion, 19th Infan- 
try, to move to Jangkena and instructed a 
company of the 2d Battalion of the same 
regiment to push on to Mariboe. The re- 
mainder of the 2d Battalion, which was to 
be assisted by miscellaneous artillery, medi- 
cal, and quartermaster units, was made re- 



66 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sponsible for moving supplies up the trail 
from Depapre as far as the crest of the 
Takari Hills. Finally, the Antitank and 
Cannon Companies of the 21st Infantry 
were ordered to push from Mariboe to 
Dazai, hand-carrying extra supplies as they 
advanced. 

Thus, by morning of the 26th, three in- 
fantry battalions, two antitank companies, 
and two cannon companies were assigned to 
carrying supplies. These troops were sup- 
ported by parts of the Service Companies 
of both the 19th and 21st Infantry Regi- 
ments, by elements of various engineer and 
quartermaster organizations, and by volun- 
teer groups from other units whose services 
were not needed for their normal duties. At 
least. 3,500 combat troops were directly em- 
ployed in moving supplies to the two for- 
ward battalions. 

Since his two forward battalions were 
now beyond the most effective and accurate 
support range of artillery emplaced at the 
beaches, Colonel Lyman asked that 4.2-inch 
mortars of Company A, 641st Tank De- 
stroyer Battalion, be sent inland. Such was 
the condition of the Depapre-Lake Sentani 
trail that plans were made to move only one 
mortar. A detachment comprising two gun 
crews and the ammunition carriers of an 
entire platoon were detailed for the task, 
and the movement of the mortar was given 
the highest priority. About the same time a 
single 105-mm. howitzer of Battery A, 5 2d 
Field Artillery Battalion, was started over 
the Takari Hills. Battery C, 11th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, offered support a different 
way. Because its guns could no longer help 
the infantry inland, the battery volunteered 
to a man to carry rations and other supplies 
over the Depapre-Lake Sentani road. Such 
help was indeed welcome. The spirit was 
excellent in the 24th Division, but spirit 



alone could not conquer all the difficulties 
of terrain. Neither the 4.2-inch mortar nor 
the 105-mm. howitzer were to reach posi- 
tions from which they could support the 21st 
Infantry's advance on 26 April. 

While these steps were being taken to de- 
liver both supplies and support weapons to 
the front, General Irving decided to order 
the advance continued. He reached this de- 
cision despite the fact that the supply situa- 
tion was still serious. It had been impossible 
to drop supplies from the air on the 25th and 
even hand-carrying had been stopped late in 
the afternoon by heavy rains which had 
flooded many small streams. Parts of the 
Depapre-Lake Sentani trail were now knee- 
deep in water. The two forward battalions 
were low on ammunition, and they would 
have to go on half-rations if the supply sit- 
uation were not quickly improved. But Gen- 
eral Irving was again optimistic about the 
weather, believing that air supply would be 
successful on the 26th. Furthermore, he had 
received information which indicated that 
the Japanese were evacuating the airfield 
area. For these reasons he considered that a 
continuation of the advance would not be 
unduly hazardous. 

In ordering the advance, the division 
commander was knowingly pushing his men 
far beyond the limit at which they could be 
supplied by hand-carry. If the airdrop 
should again fail or if track conditions 
should not improve, one of the two forward 
battalions would probably have to be eche- 
loned back along the trail to augment the 
carrying parties, and the advance would 
probably have to be halted. Should enemy 
opposition prove stubborn, the forward bat- 
talions might have to withdraw, perhaps as 
far as Dazai, to replenish their meager sup- 
plies of rations and ammunition. General 
Irving was taking a calculated risk which 



THE HOLLAND IA OPERATION 



67 



assumed the success of the airdrop and an 
absence of determined Japanese opposition. 

The Airfields Are Secured 

After passing an uneventful night, the 1st 
and 3d Battalions, 21st Infantry, resumed 
the advance at 0830 on 26 April. There was 
no opposition as the main bodies moved 
across the Dejaoe River and on through 
Julianadorp. About 11 30 both units stopped 
at Ebeli Plantation, about 1,800 yards east 
of Julianadorp, to clear out a bunker which 
was occupied by four Japanese riflemen. 
While the 3d Battalion dispatched Com- 
pany L north some 600 yards off the main 
trail to flush some Japanese from Ebeli Saw- 
mill, the rest of the troops moved on east- 
ward. By noon advance elements were atop 
a hill whence they could see the inland air- 
fields, and minutes later forward patrols 
reached the outermost dispersal areas of 
Hollandia Drome, the most westerly of the 
three Japanese airfields on the plain north 
of Lake Sentani. Now the advance was 
halted as the battalions regrouped and Colo- 
nel Lyman issued a new attack order. 

The 1st Battalion was instructed to clear 
a Japanese encampment area left of the trail 
and north of the center of Hollandia Drome. 
The 3d Battalion was to push directly on to 
the airfield, secure it, and then advance as 
far as the edge of a swamp lying southeast 
of the strip. 

By 1350 the 1st Battalion had secured its 
objective, having encountered little resist- 
ance. The 3d Battalion's forward patrols 
reached the western edge of the main run- 
way about the same time and, locating no 
opposition worthy of mention, arrived at the 
eastern end of the field half an hour later. 
At 1530 Colonel Lyman radioed to division 
headquarters that the entire Hollandia 



Drome area had been secured. By dark the 
2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, had closed at 
Hollandia Drome. 

The bad weather which had forced can- 
cellation of attempted airdrops on 24 and 
25 April had finally broken sufficiendy for a 
few planes from eastern New Guinea to get 
through to Hollandia. Twelve B-25's of the 
17th Reconnaissance Squadron, Fifth Air 
Force, flew the nearly 500 miles from Saidor 
to drop rifle, carbine, machine gun, and 
mortar ammunition, hand grenades, and 
rations at Dazai. 7 Moreover, the 2d Bat- 
talion, 21st Infantry, had managed to bring 
forward some extra rations, ammunition, 
and medical equipment. As the rain stopped, 
fresh carrying parties following the 2d Bat- 
talion found trail conditions greatly im- 
proved. Finally, some wheeled transport 
was now available at both ends of the Depa- 
pre-Lake Sentani road. Hard work by engi- 
neers had made the road passable for jeeps 
from Depapre halfway up the first steep 
slopes of the Takari Hills. At Hollandia 
Drome the 2 1st Infantry had captured a few 
Japanese trucks. These were sent west from 
the airstrip as far as possible along the main 
trail, which was passable to a point near 
Julianadorp. There the supplies dropped 
from the air during the day, as well as those 
still being hand-carried overland from De- 
papre, were picked up and taken back to 
the airfield area. 

As soon as Hollandia Drome was secured, 



T The information on the airdrop on 26 April was 
supplied to the author on 24 May 1949 by Capt. 
Bernhardt L. Mortensen, Air Historical Group, 
Headquarters, USAF. C-47's could not be used for 
the transport because the nearest Allied air bases 
were beyond practicable round trip range of such 
aircraft. While the B-25 mission did not fill all the 
needs of the forward battalions, other rations 
brought over the trail on the 26th, coupled with 
larger airdrops on the 27th and succeeding days, 
saved the situation from becoming critical. 



68 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



patrols of the 21st Infantry pushed on to- 
ward Weversdorp, a farm about 2,500 yards 
beyond the eastern end of the field. At 1 645, 
between Weversdorp and the airdrome, 
contact was established with elements of the 
186th Infantry, 41st Division, which had 
been attacking westward from Humboldt 
Bay into the airfield area. 8 

The Seizure of Hollandia Town 

While the 24th Division had been driving 
inland to Hollandia Drome, the 162d and 
186th Infantry Regiments of the 41st Di- 
vision had pushed toward the fields from 
Humboldt Bay, twenty-five miles east of 
Tanahmerah Bay. The 41st Division had 
begun landing on White Beaches 1—4 on the 
shores of Humboldt Bay at 0700 on 22 
April. Initial assaults were made by the 
16 2d Infantry over the sandspits across the 
inner reaches of Humboldt Bay. The 186th 
Infantry followed the 1 62d ashore to initiate 
a drive southwest and inland from Hum- 
boldt Bav toward the airfields on the Lake 
Sentani Plain. 9 

The Beachhead at Humboldt Bay 

The convoy bearing the 41st Division to 
Humboldt Bay did not have the same diffi- 
culty locating landmarks as did the ships at 

1 This final paragraph is based on 24th Div Opns 
Rpt Hollandia, p. 80; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollan- 
dia, p. 8; 21st Inf Jnl Hollandia. These sources dis- 
agree as to the locations of the meeting between the 
24th and 41st Division units on the afternoon of 26 
April, the 186th Infantry report putting it west of 
Weversdorp and the 21st Infantry journal placing it 
east of that farm. From a close check of the timing 
of all reports concerning this contact, it seems that a 
point some place between Weversdorp and the east- 
ern edge of Hollandia Drome is correct. 

9 Letterpress LF FO 1, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 Annex 
to 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia. 



Tanahmerah Bay, and the ships found their 
assigned transport and fire support areas 
without much trouble. The naval fire sup- 
port conducted by American light cruisers 
and destroyers and the air support missions 
flown by Task Force 58 planes were ex- 
ecuted as planned. There was no opposition 
to either the naval gunfire or the aircraft 
activity, and surprise was as complete as 
that achieved at Tanahmerah Bay. Assault 
troops of the 41st Division quickly un- 
loaded from the APD's which had carried 
them to Humboldt Bay and boarded land- 
ing craft, personnel, ramp (LCPR's), cox- 
swained by naval personnel, for the short 
run to the beaches. The first of these boats 
touched shore exactly on schedule at 0700. 
The leading waves of landing craft were 
supported by rocket fire from two Seventh 
Fleet LCI's which fired principally on Pan- 
cake Hill, just north of White Beach 1, and 
by rocket or automatic weapons fire from 
two LCVP's of the 532d Engineer Boat and 
Shore Regiment. There was no answering 
fire from Japanese weapons and no opposi- 
tion at the beaches. 10 

The first assault was made by Companies 
K and L, 162d Infantry, which landed 
along an 800-yard front on White Beach 1 , 
located on the more northern of the two 
sandspits dividing Humboldt Bay from Jau- 
tefa Bay. 11 Succeeding waves of the 3d Bat- 
talion, 162d Infantry, came ashore in 
LCVP's and LCM's manned by the Boat 
Battalion, 5 3 2d Engineer Boat and Shore 

M CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt 
Bay-Aitape, pp. 5, 26-27; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt 
Humboldt Bay, pp. 3-4. 

11 Information in this and the following subsection 
is based on : 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 2-7; 
162d Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 1-3; 41st Div 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 162d Inf Jnl Hollandia; 186th 
Inf Jnl Hollandia; draft MS 2d ESB Hist, Ch. VII, 
pp. 7-8, 30-31. 




GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR and General Horace H. Fuller, on the 
beach at Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, 22 April 1944. 



70 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Regiment. Simultaneously, a reinforced rifle 
platoon of Company A, 162d Infantry, was 
put ashore from Army LCVP's on White 
Beach 2, immediately south of White Beach 
1. Company I, 186th Infantry, landed in 
the same manner on White Beach 3 on the 
southern sandspit. There was no enemy op- 
position to these two secondary landings. 
Within half an hour the remainder of the 
3d Battalion, 162d Infantry, the 1st and 
2d Battalions of the same regiment, six tanks 
of the 603d Tank Company, and elements 
of the 116th Engineer Battalion were all 
safely ashore on the northern spit. 

The rifle platoon of Company A, 162d 
Infantry, advanced rapidly south along the 
spit and by 0745 secured Cape Pie, at the 
peninsula's southern extremity. This action 
eliminated the possibility of a Japanese sur- 
prise attack and secured the southern end 
of the spit. Company I of the 1 86th Infan- 
try, also unopposed, quickly secured Cape 
Tjeweri at the northern tip of the southern 
spit, and then began moving southeast along 
the shore of Humboldt Bay toward Holle- 
kang to forestall any Japanese counter- 
attacks from that direction. 

Meanwhile, the remainder of the 3d Bat- 
talion, 162d Infantry, had landed on White 
Beach 1 and had started north to secure 
Pancake Hill which, located at the inland 
end of the northern peninsula, overlooked 
all the 41st Division's landing beaches. 
So surprised had the Japanese been by the 
landings and by the speed of the 3d Bat- 
talion's advance, that the American troops, 
encountering only scattered rifle fire, were 
able to take Pancake Hill before 0800. 
Atop that important terrain feature they 
found a Japanese antiaircraft gun from 
which the canvas weather covering had not 
been removed. This weapon had not been 
touched by the preassault naval bombard- 



ment and was still in perfect condition. Had 
the Japanese antiaircraftmen been alert, 
they could have created havoc among the 
41st Division troops landing on the beaches 
below Pancake Hill. 

After the hill was occupied, most of the 
3d Battalion pushed up the shores of Hum- 
boldt Bay, while one company moved over- 
land north from Pancake Hill. No resistance 
worthy of mention opposed this two- 
pronged attack, the objective of which was 
to surround and seize another dominating 
terrain feature, Jarremoh Hill. This hill, 
rising some 1,000 feet, overlooked the sand- 
spits and the shores of Challenger Cove, a 
northwesterly arm of Humboldt Bay. On 
the west shore of the cove was located the 
town of Hollandia. 

Hollandia Falls 

By 1430 the 3d Battalion had cleared 
Jarremoh Hill and was digging in for the 
night along a ridge overlooking Hollandia. 
The battalion commander wanted to push 
on into the town before dark, but General 
Fuller, commanding the 41st Division, 
vetoed this proposal. On the basis of intelli- 
gence reports which indicated that the Jap- 
anese were occupying Hollandia in some 
strength, General Fuller had decided that 
the seizure of the town would have to wait 
until the morning of the 23d. During the 
night naval guns and 105-mm. howitzers 
of the 146th Field Artillery Battalion — em- 
placed on firm ground north of White Beach 
1 — bombarded Hollandia, softening the 3d 
Battalion's task for the morrow. 

In the meantime the 2d Battalion had be- 
gun advancing from White Beach 1 to the 
track connecting Hollandia with Pirn, on 
the western shore of Jautefa Bay. Company 
E led off on the left at 0756, moving past 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



71 



the southwest side of Pancake Hill, while 
Company G took a route east of the hill. 
The rest of the battalion soon started out 
after Company E but found the terrain west 
of Pancake Hill unexpectedly swampy and 
rough going for a large body of troops. The 
battalion commander therefore ordered the 
units on that side to turn and follow Com- 
pany G. Company E kept on overland and 
quickly reached the Pim-Hollandia track 
at a point about 1,000 yards west of Pan- 
cake Hill. By midmorning Company G had 
arrived on the trail north of Company E. 
The rest of the battalion concentrated on 
the trail between Companies E and G early 
in the afternoon. 

Contact was soon established with the 
company of the 3d Battalion which had ad- 
vanced to the Pim-Hollandia road from 
Pancake Hill earlier in the day. The 2d Bat- 
talion then moved up the road toward Hol- 
landia, and by nightfall had joined the 3d 
on the ridge overlooking the town. Mean- 
while, the 1st Battalion had assembled as 
division reserve at the base of Pancake Hill. 

By dark on the 22d the 162d Infantry 
had carried its advance to the 41st Division's 
first phase line. To that time, opposition had 
been so light that American casualties, in- 
cluding those of the 186th Infantry, totaled 
only six men killed and sixteen wounded. 
As at Tanahmerah Bay, the Japanese had 
made no effort to man their prepared de- 
fenses which, though not as extensive as had 
been expected, could have produced consid- 
erable trouble for the 41st Division. The di- 
vision staff was both pleased and worried by 
the lack of enemy resistance and could make 
no estimate as to the character of Japanese 
opposition which might be met on the 23d. 
Nevertheless, since it was expected that the 
162d Infantry would have little trouble in 
seizing Hollandia, that action was ordered. 



The 2d and 3d Battalions, 162d Infantry, 
jumped off at 0730 on the 23d. The units 
moved rapidly down the ridge to Hollandia 
and at 1115 reported that they had secured 
the town. There was no opposition. 

The 1st Battalion, 162d Infantry, had 
meanwhile relieved a battalion of the 1 86th 
Infantry which had been waiting in division 
reserve west of Pancake Hill. The 2d Bat- 
talion, 1 62d Infantry, after helping the 3d 
to secure Hollandia, moved into high ground 
west and northwest of that town. During the 
remainder of the attack phase of the Hol- 
landia operation, the entire 162d Infantry 
patrolled the hilly environs of Hollandia, 
securing the northern shores of Humboldt 
Bay, the beaches of Challenger Cove, and 
rough hills along the western side of Jautefa 
Bay. To the 1 86th Infantry fell the task of 
driving inland to the main objective, the air- 
fields on the north shore of Lake Sentani. 

The Drive Inland from Humboldt Bay 

The Landing of the 186th Infantry 

LVT's carrying Companies K and L of 
the 186th Infantry hit White Beach 2 about 
0715, ten minutes ahead of schedule, on 22 
April. 12 Original plans had provided that 
these LVT assault waves would cross White 
Beach 2 and the mangrove swamp to its rear 
and proceed overwater across Jautefa Bay 
to White Beach 4, located north of Pirn, 
near the eastern terminus of the main road 
leading inland to the airfields. But the man- 
grove swamp proved impassable for the 



12 Information in this and the following two sub- 
sections is based principally on: 41st Div Opns Rpt 
Hollandia, pp. 2-1 1 ; RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 
9-12; 41st Div G-3 Jnl Hollandia; 186th Inf Jnl 
Hollandia, 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 1-8; 
draft MS 2d ESB Hist, Ch. VII, pp. 32-34. 



72 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



LVT's. The amphibians withdrew from the 
beach and, under cover of Support Battery 
craft of the 2d Engineer Special Brigade, 
proceeded into Jautefa Bay through the 
narrow channel between Capes Pie and 
Tjeweri. 

At 0810 Company L started moving 
ashore about 900 yards north of Pim. Com- 
pany K landed 500 yards farther north 
about 0825. The remainder of the 3d Bat- 
talion (less Company I, which was operat- 
ing on White Beach 3 ) arrived in the White 
Beach 4 area about 0915. The first objec- 
tive was Leimok Hill, lying 1,800 yards 
northwest of Pim. Part of the battalion se- 
cured the hill by 1000, and other elements 
advanced southward toward Pim. That vil- 
lage and its usable jetty were secured, against 
light opposition, by 1645, while Suiker- 
brood Hill, on Jautefa Bay south of Pim, 
was cleared by 1800. The danger that ene- 
my troops atop dominating heights near 
Pim might make White Beach 4 untenable 
was over. 

The 3d Battalion established a night per- 
imeter at Pim, extending its defenses along 
a trail leading west from that village to the 
point at which the Pim-Hollandia track 
joined the main road inland to Lake Sen- 
tani, thus securing the roadhead from which 
movements to inland objectives had to be- 
gin. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, 
which had followed the 162d Infantry 
ashore on White Beach 1, had proceeded 
north and west around the mangrove swamp 
and down the Pim-Hollandia track to Lei- 
mok Hill. There it relieved the 3d Battalion 
and established a night defensive perimeter. 
The 2d Battalion (less two rifle companies) 
moved into divisional reserve on the Pim- 
Hollandia track west of Pancake Hill; its 
remaining two companies stayed afloat un- 
til D plus 1 . Orders were issued late at night 



on the 2 2d to the 1 86th Infantry, Col. Oliver 
P. Newman commanding, to move out the 
next morning at daybreak. The objective 
was the inland airfield area and the axis of 
advance was the Pirn-Lake Sentani road. 

Back on White Beach 1, the Naval Beach 
Party and the 5 3 2d Engineer Boat and 
Shore Regiment (the Shore Party), aug- 
mented by the Cannon Companies of the 
162d and 186th Infantry Regiments, 
worked hard to unload all D-Day shipping 
before dark. Seven LST's were discharged 
on White Beach 1. Roller conveyors were 
used for the 375 tons of bulk cargo each 
LST carried in addition to its mobile load. 
Cargo and equipment aboard the APA 
HMAS Westralia was lightered to White 
Beach 1 or 2 by small craft. Since White 
Beach 3 was very steep and had no suitable 
landing spots, most cargo had to be un- 
loaded on the northern sandspit. That spit 
was already cluttered with Japanese stores ; 
it was narrow; and exits to inland dispersal 
areas were limited. These factors combined 
to lead to a great deal of congestion. 

To the Shore of Lake Sentani 

At 0800 on 23 April the 1st Battalion left 
its night positions on Leimok Hill and started 
out over the main track, passing through the 
3d Battalion. The movement was supported 
by the 205th and 218th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions, set up near Cape Pie, and by aircraft 
from the carriers of Task Force 58. By 0900 
the 1st Battalion had reached Brinkman's 
Plantation, about 2,200 yards by trail south- 
west of Pim. So far, there had been no oppo- 
sition. Now Companies A and C parted from 
the main body to patrol northwest up the 
Borgonjie River. Proceeding to a fork about 
2,000 yards upstream, the two companies 
repulsed a series of unco-ordinated attacks 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



73 



which were launched against the right flank 
of the 186th Infantry during the afternoon 
by a Japanese force estimated at 150. The 
two companies remained at the stream- 
branching during the night of 23-24 April, 
and on the latter day they moved overland 
southwest to rejoin the main force on the 
Pirn— Lake Sentani trail. 

Leaving Companies A and C to guard 
its right flank, the remainder of the 1st Bat- 
talion had continued the advance along the 
main trail against negligible opposition. By 
noon the battalion had reached the outskirts 
of a large Japanese dump and storage area 
about 2,500 yards beyond Brinkman's Plan- 
tation. The unit halted to await the results 
of an air strike on suspected enemy positions 
west of the storage area and for the 3d Bat- 
talion to close up from the rear. 

It was hoped that the 186th Infantry 
could reach the second phase line, Koejaboe 
and the northeast shores of Lake Sentani, 
during the afternoon of the 2'3d, but air 
observers and forward patrols had reported 
considerable Japanese activity along the 
trail west of the storage area. Colonel New- 
man felt that the now understrength 1 st Bat- 
talion did not have enough men to continue 
an advance against what might prove to be 
strong enemy defenses. Moreover, the 3d 
Battalion's movement from Pirn had been 
slow and the unit did not reach the Japanese 
storage area until 1500, when it was neces- 
sary to halt for the day. General Fuller had 
ordered that offensive action — other than 
patrolling — cease each day at 1500 so that 
defensive positions could be prepared before 
dark. The forward elements of the 1 86th In- 
fantry set up their night perimeters at the 
eastern edge of the Japanese storage area. 

By 1500 heavy rain had begun to turn 
spots of the Pim-Lake Sentani road — the 
best yet found in the Hollandia area — into 



great mudholes. LVT's had started out over 
the trail from Pirn to bring supplies forward 
to the advancing infantry and, if necessary, 
to provide fire support. But many of the 
LVT's bogged down in the mud along the 
road. Supply problems seemed imminent. 

Colonel Newman suggested to division 
headquarters that on the 24th the advance 
be resumed with the 3d Battalion passing 
through the 1st. The latter was to remain 
in the storage area until rejoined by Com- 
panies A and C, after which it would follow 
the 3d Battalion and protect the right flank 
of the advance by patrolling along high 
ground north of the main trail. The 3d 
Battalion's initial objective was a jetty at the 
point where the main road first touched the 
shore of Lake Sentani. This jetty was to be 
held as a base for future operations. Com- 
pany I, scheduled to rejoin the 3d Battalion 
on the 24th, was ordered to take a branch 
trail to Koejaboe and its jetty, southeast of 
the first jetty. The 2d Battalion was to re- 
main in reserve in the Pirn area and along 
the track west of that village. 

Permission to carry out Colonel New- 
man's plan came from 41st Division- head- 
quarters at 0630 on the 24th, and at 0845 
the 3d Battalion moved out. Since Japanese 
air action during the night of 23-24 April 
had succeeded in firing the American am- 
munition and ration dumps on White Beach 
1, the advance of the 186th Infantry had 
to be made on half-rations, and the troops 
were ordered to conserve ammunition. 
Luckily, little enemy opposition was en- 
countered during the morning, and by 1 100 
3d Battalion patrols were within 500 yards 
of the initial objective. Light fire from a 
force of Japanese, estimated at 150, then 
temporarily delayed the advance, but the 
first jetty and its environs were secured 
shortly after noon. 



74 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



It had meanwhile become apparent that 
the 1st Battalion was too widely dispersed to 
carry out its assigned support and follow-up 
roles. Two companies followed along the 
main track as best they could, but extensive 
patrolling on the high ground north of the 
trail proved necessary because small parties 
of Japanese were continually being discov- 
ered wandering about on the right flank. 
While these Japanese parties did not seem 
aggressive in most cases, Colonel Newman 
wisely chose to take no chances by leaving 
his flank unprotected. Companies A and C 
were again assigned to the arduous patrol- 
ling task. The 3d Battalion was now far in- 
land and practically unsupported. General 
Fuller therefore released the 2d Battalion, 
until now in division reserve, to Colonel 
Newman's control. 

The 2d Battalion pushed rapidly west- 
ward from Pirn, passed through such ele- 
ments of the 1st Battalion as were still on 
the trail, and took up positions on the right 
of the 3d Battalion late in the afternoon. The 
two units then set up night perimeters in the 
vicinity of the jetty. The 3d Battalion was 
established along a line running 700 yards 
inland from Lake Sentani and the 2d Bat- 
talion refused the right flank by extending 
its lines northeast 500 yards to the right rear. 
About 1630, Companies A and C rejoined 
the main body of the 1st Battalion in a night 
perimeter at the junction of the main Pirn- 
Lake Sentani road and the track leading to 
Koejaboe, not yet captured. The 1st Bat- 
talion's position was about 3,500 swampy 
yards east of the 2d and 3d Battalions. 

During the day the 34th Infantry of the 
24th Division, Reckless Task Force Re- 
serve, had been transferred from Tanah- 
merah Bay to Humboldt Bay. Its arrival 
had allowed the task force commander to re- 
lease Company I, 186th Infantry, from 



White Beach 3 and the 2d Battalion, 186th 
Infantry, from its reserve role. 

Amphibious Movement on 
Lake Sentani 

Colonel Newman's plans for the 25th en- 
visaged using his entire regiment in a com- 
bined amphibious and overland advance to 
the airfields, a maneuver now possible be- 
cause the 34th Infantry could free 186th In- 
fantry units from guard duties along the line 
of communications back to Pirn. Colonel 
Newman ordered the 3d Battalion, 186th 
Infantry, to move west along the main road 
to Nefaar, six and one half miles beyond the 
night bivouac area. The 1st Battalion was to 
load on LVT's at the jetty which had been 
captured the previous afternoon. From that 
jetty, the troops were to move by LVT over 
Lake Sentani to a point on the shore west of 
Nefaar and, upon landing, help the 1st Bat- 
talion to secure that village. Two companies 
of the 2d Battalion were to clear scattered 
enemy troops from high ground on the right 
flank, whence the Japanese had harassed 
the battalion's night bivouac. As soon as 
this task was accomplished, the 2d Battalion 
would reassemble as regimental reserve and 
follow the 3d along the main track toward 
Nefaar. Company I had not reached the 3d 
Battalion the previous day and was there- 
fore ordered to operate with the 1st Bat- 
talion, at the perimeter of which it had ar- 
rived just before dark. Company B was lent 
to the 3d Battalion to bring that unit up to 
full strength for the advance west. 

The 3d Battalion started moving at 0800 
on the 25th and by 1000 had marched al- 
most 3,000 yards westward against no oppo- 
sition. The Japanese who had delayed the 
advance on the 24th had vanished. Com- 
pany K, moving to the north of the main 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



75 




LVT'S CROSSING LAKE SENTANI. Note Fifth Air Force B-25's overhead. 



road, flushed the few enemy seen during the 
morning. 

LVT's of the 2d Engineer Special Bri- 
gade had now moved up to the jetty which 
the 3d Battalion had captured the previous 
day. There, at 1000, two companies of the 
1st Battalion loaded on the amphibians and 
departed for Nefaar. No Japanese fire from 
the shores of Lake Sentani greeted this land- 
locked amphibious maneuver, and at 1150 
two companies landed at Nefaar. The re- 
mainder of the 1st Battalion moved by LVT 
to Nefaar later in the day and at 1530 the 
3d Battalion reached that village after an 
uneventful march overland. The 2d Bat- 



talion closed on the village shortly thereafter. 

Vigorous patrolling north and west of 
Nefaar characterized action the rest of the 
afternoon, during which only slight resist- 
ance was encountered. Expected strong 
enemy opposition had not as yet material- 
ized, but before dark a platoon of Company 
A made a brief reconnaissance of Cyclops 
Drome, most easterly of the three Japanese 
fields on the north shore of Lake Sentani, 
and reported evidences of considerable 
enemy movement and strong defensive po- 
sitions. Despite these reports, Colonel New- 
man was confident that his troops would 
have little or no difficulty in securing Cy- 



76 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



clops Drome on the 26th, for he now be- 
lieved that the enemy had vacated the 
airfield area. 

One of the reasons that the 1 86th Infan- 
try had not reached the airdromes on the 
afternoon of 25 April was that artillery fire 
was falling on those fields. Some of this fire 
may have been from the 155-mm. weapons 
of the 11th or 168th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions, emplaced on the 24th Division's 
beaches at Tanahmerah Bay, but other ar- 
tillery fire was undoubtedly from Japanese 
dual-purpose weapons dug in north of the 
airfields. Whatever the case, communica- 
tions difficulties prevented the fire from the 
24th Division's area being stopped before 
the time came for the 1 86th Infantry to set 
up night defenses. The 1st Battalion biv- 
ouacked about 1,700 yards west of Nefaar 
and placed outposts in high ground 700 
yards north of the main trail. The 3d Bat- 
talion went into position about 1 ,000 yards 
behind the 1st, while the 2d remained at 
Nefaar for the night. 

For the morrow, Colonel Newman or- 
dered the 1st Battalion to seize the north- 
western half of Cyclops Drome. One com- 
pany of the 3d was to secure the southeastern 
part of the field and the remainder of the 
battalion was to act as general reserve. The 
2d Battalion was to move by LVT from 
Nefaar to another jetty located about 2,000 
yards southeast of Sentani Drome and the 
village of Ifaar. Pushing rapidly up a trail 
from the jetty to Ifaar, the battalion was to 
seize that village and Sentani Drome. 

The 1st and 2d Battalions moved out as 
planned shortly after 0800 on the 26th. By 
1040 the 1st Battalion had secured Cyclops 
Drome against no opposition. About 1000, 
Companies F and G of the 2d Battalion 
landed against scattered rifle fire at the jetty 
below Ifaar, a mile overwater from Nefaar. 



The rest of the battalion came ashore in the 
same area in the early afternoon. Advance 
elements of the 2d Battalion were on Sentani 
Drome at 1130, and by 1215 the battalion 
commander was able to report that the air- 
field and its environs had been secured. 

During the remainder of the afternoon 
patrol action around both airfields ac- 
counted for a few Japanese stragglers. Op- 
position throughout the day had been con- 
spicuous by its absence — the Japanese had 
disappeared. The 3d Battalion moved up to 
the airstrips before dark, and at nightfall the 
entire 1 86th Infantry set up a defensive per- 
imeter around Cyclops and Sentani Dromes. 
Patrols of the 1st Battalion were sent west 
beyond the fields and at 1645 made contact 
with patrols of the 21st Infantry between 
Weversdorp and Hollandia Drome. This 
contact completed the pincers movement in- 
stituted by the 24th and 41st Divisions on 
22 April. All important objectives of the 
Reckless Task Force had been secured. 

Mopping-Up Operations 

Although the contact between the 24th 
and 4 1 st Divisions ended the major tactical 
phase of the Hollandia operation, it was 
necessary to clear the area of scattered en- 
emy troops, attempt to find large organi- 
zations of Japanese forces, and cut enemy 
escape routes. 13 With these objectives in 
view, elements of the 1 86th Infantry recon- 
noitered the north shores of Lake Sentani, 
and Poegi and Ase Islands in the lake dur- 
ing 27 April. These and many later patrols, 
most of which were transported by 2d En- 

" This subsection is based principally upon : RTF 
Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 14; 41st Div Opns Rpt Hol- 
landia, pp. 11-16; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Hollandia, 
pp. 8-12; 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 85- 
92, 98-110; draft MS 2d ESB Hist, Ch. VII, pp. 
23-24. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



77 



gineer Special Brigade LVT's or amphibian 
6x6 trucks (DUKW's), encountered few 
Japanese in the area covered. Other troops 
of the 186th Infantry flushed about 400 
Japanese on Hill 1000, approximately 4,000 
yards northeast of Cyclops Drome. On the 
29th, with the help of fire from the 205th 
Field Artillery Battalion, the 1st Battalion 
seized the hill, killing or dispersing the en- 
emy. Thereafter the 186th Infantry pa- 
trolled into the Cyclops Mountains north 
and northeast of the airdromes. 

The 162d Infantry's principal action after 
clearing the environs of Hollandia was to 
seize Cape Soeadja, at the northwest limits 
of Humboldt Bay, on 27 April. The regi- 
ment continued patrolling in the Hollandia 
area until 6 May when it was relieved by 
the 34th Infantry. 

The latter unit was greatly dispersed. 
Some elements patrolled around Pirn and 
along the road inland to support the drive 
of the 186th Infantry, while the 2d Battalion 
moved to the Hollekang-Cape Djar area, 
east of Humboldt Bay. Ultimately, the en- 
tire 2d Battalion moved to Tami Drome, 
on the coast six miles east of Hollekang, to 
protect engineers who were repairing the 
Tami strip. The battalion later established 
an outpost at Goya, about five miles inland 
south of Hollekang, in order to halt Japa- 
nese movements in that area. The 1st and 
3d Battalions furnished guards for supply 
dumps, working parties at the beaches, 
truck drivers, and construction personnel for 
a number of minor projects. 

The 21st Infantry sent a reinforced com- 
pany to Marneda, about five miles southwest 
of Lake Sentani, to establish a patrol base, 
and another company held a base at Iris 
Bay, northwest of Tanahmerah Bay, for a 



short time. | (&re Map 2. )\ The 19th Infantry 
sent patrols overland to the coast north of 



the Cyclops Mountains to secure trails run- 
ning through the mountains to the Depa- 
pre— Lake Sentani road or the airfields. 
Other elements of the regiment were trans- 
ported by 542d Engineer Boat and Shore 
Regiment boats to Demta Bay, west of 
Tanahmerah Bay, and maintained an out- 
post there for some days. Still other units 
of the 24th Division probed overland from 
the western end of Lake Sentani to Genjem, 
a main inland trail junction through which 
passed many Japanese who were attempting 
to escape westward from the Hollandia area. 
The 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, 
later reinforced by Company B, 21st In- 
fantry, patrolled along the western, south- 
western, and southern shores of Lake 
Sentani. 

By 6 June the mopping-up efforts of the 
Reckless Task Force had succeeded in 
clearing all but a few Japanese stragglers 
from the immediate area of the airfields, 
Hollandia, Tanahmerah Bay, and Tami. 1 * 

Logistic Problems of the RECKLESS Task 
Force 

Evening of 26 April found the Reckless 
Task Force in an excellent position tacti- 
cally. The principal objective — the inland 
airfields — had been seized within four days 
despite radical changes in the original 
scheme of maneuver. Japanese opposition 
had been negligible and in much less 
strength than expected; there was no evi- 
dence that any large-scale enemy counter- 
attack could or would be made against the 
Hollandia area; and land-based air support 
for the Reckless Task Force was being 
made available from fields captured at 

" Details concerning mopping up in the area west 
of Lake Sentani after 6 June are to be found in 
Chapter IV below. 



78 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Aitape, 125 miles to the southeast. On the 
other hand, the restricted beaches at Tanah- 
merah Bay and the poor condition of the 
Depapre— Lake Sentani road gave no prom- 
ise that supplies for the 24th Division would 
be adequate for some time to come. Con- 
gestion on the beaches at Humbolt Bay, the 
rapid deterioration of the Pirn-Lake Sentani 
road, and a disastrous fire on White Beach 1 
during the night of 23-24 April made supply 
of the 41st Division difficult. In brief, the 
logistic problems of the entire Reckless 
Task Force had assumed amazing propor- 
tions. 

The Fire 

The units moving ashore at Humboldt 
Bay on 22 April found Japanese supplies 
covering White Beaches 1 and 2. Air bomb- 
ing and naval support fire prior to the 
landings had scattered these enemy supplies 
all over the northern sandspit, while smoke 
and flames issued from much of the materiel 
as a result of the bombardment. A compli- 
cated dispersal problem for the supplies of 
the 41st Division and its attached units was 
thereby created. 15 

The 116th Engineer Battalion, ashore 
shortly after H Hour, immediately set to 
work clearing White Beach 1 . In accordance 
with Reckless Task Force plans, the bat- 
talion endeavored to construct an exit road 
from the beach to the Pim-Hollandia track, 
but the terrain north of the beach proved 
more rugged than anticipated and the 
swamp northwest of the beach more formid- 
able than expected. Rapid road building 
was impossible and the project was tem- 
porarily abandoned while all efforts were 



"RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 18-19; GTF 77 
Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, 
p. 28. 



turned to unloading D-Day shipping. On 
D plus 1, more troops, vehicles, and supplies 
began pouring onto White Beaches 1 and 2. 
Only slow progress could be made on exit 
roads, and beach congestion increased. The 
situation was not helped by the necessity for 
basing both antiaircraft and field artillery 
units along the northern sandspit. Some 
relief was effected during the day as boats 
of the 532d Engineer Boat and Shore Regi- 
ment began ferrying a few supplies directly 
from the transports to Pirn and transferring 
more there from the two principal unloading 
beaches. 18 

Shortly after dark on the night of 23-24 
April, a lone Japanese aircraft, apparently 
guided by still smoldering fires in old Jap- 
anese dumps, dropped a stick of bombs on 
White Beach 1 . One of these bombs, landing 
at the edge of a Japanese ammunition dump 
below Pancake Hill, started a series of con- 
flagrations which soon spread to an Amer- 
ican gasoline dump near by and thence to 
other Reckless Task Force equipment. 
Efforts to stop the fires during the night 
proved fruitless, for intense heat and con- 
tinuous explosions drove back troops who 
tried to put out the flames or salvage mate- 
riel. The fires raged all night and through 
most of the next day. 17 

Much confusion resulted from the fires. 
Shortly before midnight it was rumored at 
41st Division headquarters that a Japanese 
force of unknown strength had landed on 
White Beach 1 or 2 and possibly on White 
Beach 4. This erroneous report was relayed 
to forward units. 18 But even after this rumor 
had been proved false, both the 162d and 

16 RTF" Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 18-19, 55. 

" RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 10, 19; 41st Div 
Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 6-7; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt 
Humboldt Bay, p. 4. 

18 Msg, 41st Div to 186th Inf, 2100, 23 Apr 44, 
in 186th Inf S-l Jnl Hollandia. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



79 



186th Infantry Regiments were ordered to 
cease all forward movement, go on half- 
rations, and make every attempt to conserve 
ammunition. 19 As daylight came and the sit- 
uation at the beaches became clearer, the 
186th Infantry was instructed to continue 
its advance inland, but was again ordered 
to issue only half-rations and to continue all 
efforts to conserve ammunition and other 
supplies. The 162d Infantry was allowed to 
execute its plans to seize the town of Hollan- 
dia but after that was to limit its operations 
to patrolling and defensive measures until 
further notice. 20 

The fire had a far worse effect on the 
logistical situation than on the tactical. Well 
over 60 percent of the rations and ammu- 
nition landed through D plus 1 was burned 
or blown up during the following two days. 
The equivalent of eleven LST loads of sup- 
plies was lost, while twenty-four men were 
killed and about one hundred wounded or 
injured as a result of the fires and ex- 
plosions. 21 

General Eichelberger immediately radi- 
oed to Alamo Force a request for duplica- 
tion of all bulk stores which had been 
unloaded from LST's at Humboldt Bay on 
D Day and D plus 1. It was further re- 
quested that these loadings be sent forward 
with the first reinforcement convoy, sched- 
uled to arrive on D plus 8. 22 When these 
instructions reached the Reckless Task 
Force's G— 4 liaison groups at the staging 
areas in eastern New Guinea, ships of the 



M Msgs, 41st Div to 186th Inf, 0400 and 0545, 24 
Apr 44, in 186th Inf S-l Jnl Hollandia. 

M 41st Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 7. 

"RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 11, 19; Rad, 
CTG 77.2 to CTF 77, 23 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 23-24 Apr 44. 

72 Rad, RTF to Alamo, 5619, 24 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; RTF 
Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 19. 



D plus 8 convoy were already being loaded 
not only with supplies but also with service 
troops. In order that enough materiel might 
be sent forward to replace the eleven LST 
loads which had been lost, the troop space 
was reassigned to supplies. A good deal of 
confusion was caused in the rear bases by 
the speed at which decisions had to be made, 
lack of traffic control at the loading area, 
absence of ammunition data except for 
dead- weight tonnage, and incomplete un- 
derstanding of time and space requirements 
by those responsible for the new loading 
plans. 23 

Some of the paper work for shipping 
plans, especially for resupply echelons, had 
apparently not been completed, and the 
Reckless Task Force Q-A later reported: 
". . . the Task Force was extremely handi- 
capped by the lack of stowage plans and 
manifests on shipping in the harbor and 
awaiting call forward. This resulted in the 
loss of valuable time in unloading urgently 
needed cargo and the calling forward of 
most ships was like reaching in a grab 
bag". 24 

As a result of inadequate information and 
the confusion in the staging areas, it was 
impossible for the G-A Section to ascertain 
exactly what types and quantities of am- 
munition arrived with the hurriedly re- 
loaded D plus 8 replacement ships. It can 
be assumed, however, that all ammunition 
losses were adequately replaced at least after 
D plus 12, by which time the end of Jap- 
anese resistance in the Hollandia area had 
eliminated the ammunition problem. 25 Even 
though the ammunition resupply problem 
had been solved without undue difficulty, it 
was the opinion of the G-4 that the Reck- 

23 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 37, 65-66. 

24 Ibid., p. 40. 

25 Ibid., pp. 37, 65-66. 



80 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



less Task Force had been extremely fortu- 
nate: "Had the enemy attack from the air 
been in force, the loss of life and property 
would have probably delayed the operation 
for a considerable period of time." 26 

But the general congestion at Humboldt 
Bay was not improved for some time. On D 
plus 2, with fires still raging on the northern 
spit, Reckless Task Force headquarters, 
the task force reserve, and miscellaneous 
service units, together with their supplies 
and equipment, arrived from Tanahmerah 
Bay. In addition, five LST's of the D plus 2 
convoy from eastern New Guinea bases 
hove into view. There were now eleven 
LST's awaiting unloading in Humboldt 
Bay, and the best beaches, White 1 and 2, 
could not be used. Beaches at Hollandia and 
other points around the shores of Challenger 
Cove were obstructed by reefs. Extensive 
demolitions would be necessary before LST's 
could use that area. White Beach 4, at Pirn, 
was inaccessible to LST's. The only remain- 
ing area was White Beach 3 and the shore 
line to its south along the Cape Tjeweri 
sandspit. 

White Beach 3 was ill suited for beaching 
LST's and there were some objections from 
Admiral William M. Fechteler's Central 
Attack Group to Reckless Task Force 
plans for using that beach. But the admiral 
realized that many of the available LST's 
had to be unloaded promptly so that they 
could be returned on schedule to the Cen- 
tral Pacific Area, whence they had been 
borrowed. He also knew that the cargo 
aboard some LST's was badly needed ashore 
to replace the supplies destroyed on White 
Beaches 1 and 2. He therefore decided to 
use White Beach 3 until White Beaches 1 
and 2 were again safe. Admiral Fechteler 
ordered his LST commander, Capt. Roger 

26 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, p. 36. 



Cutler (USN) , to run the LST's into White 
Beach 3 from the northern side of Hum- 
boldt Bay at full speed in order to ram the 
ships as high as possible on the sandspit. 
Captain Cutler's LST skippers did such a 
good job that the Central Attack Group 
later had considerable difficulty retracting 
many LST's from the beach. 27 

Supplies and equipment unloaded at 
White Beach 3 were transferred by small 
craft to Pirn, where, since very limited dis- 
persal areas were available, a bottleneck 
soon formed. The road inland from Pirn, 
barely passable for wheeled vehicles on D 
Day, was rapidly deteriorating under con- 
tinuous heavy trucking and rain. Finally, 
demands for the use of lighterage between 
White Beach 3 and Pirn far exceeded the 
available supply of small craft. Some addi- 
tional complications arose from disagree- 
ments between naval and engineer special 
brigade units regarding the employment of 
small boats. Luckily, ample manual labor 
was available, especially after the arrival of 
the 34th Infantry and various service units 
from Tanahmerah Bay. LST's were un- 
loaded rapidly at White Beach 3, and work 
around the clock kept the unloading areas 
at Pirn clear enough for steady use of the 
limited beach and small jetty there. White 
Beaches 1 and 2 were usable again on D 
plus S. 28 

By the morning of 25 April an inventory 
of supplies could be taken. With the supplies 
and ammunition landed from the D plus 2 
convoy and those transferred from Ta- 
nahmerah Bay, the situation appeared 
brighter. During the afternoon General 

21 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20; Ltr, Adra 
Fechteler to Gen Ward, 8 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH 
files. 

" RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20; CTF 77 
Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay— Humboldt Bay— Aitape, 
pp. 28-29; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Humboldt Bay, p. 4. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



81 



Eichelberger was able to report to Alamo 
Force that three and one half units of fire 
for all weapons were on hand and that 
enough rations were available to feed all 
troops for six days. 29 

Supplying Forces Inland 

The problem of supplying the troops on 
the Lake Sentani plain did not end with the 
seizure of the airfields on 26 April. For some 
time thereafter the 24th Division continued 
to receive some of its supplies by laborious 
hand-carry from Tanahmerah Bay, but this 
relatively inefficient method did not get ade- 
quate quantities of food forward. The di- 
vision's inland troops were on half-rations 
much of the time. Despite continuous work 
by engineers, the 41st Division's main sup- 
ply line — the Pirn— Lake Sentani road — 
could not stand the demands made upon it, 
and from time to time sections of the road 
had to be closed so that heavy equipment 
could make repairs on it. 

Early half-successful airdrops had added 
little to the supplies of the troops inland, but 
air supply was the only feasible method of 
supporting the inland forces. Cyclops Drome 
was ready for limited employment on 27 
April, and Hollandia Drome could be used 
by 1 May. But the mere availability of these 
fields did not solve the supply problem. First, 
weather prevented regular air supply runs 
for a while and, second, it was initially some- 
what difficult to assemble the needed sup- 
plies at rear bases, from which supplies were 
already on their way forward to Hollandia 
by water or were being loaded aboard ship 
for water transportation. Neither time nor 
planes were available to carry out a program 

"Rad, RTF to Alamo, 0304, 25 Apr 44, and 
Rad, RTF to Alamo, 2050, 25 Apr 44, both in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44. 



of unloading the ships, reloading their car- 
goes on aircraft, and flying the supplies to 
the Hollandia fields. This difficulty was 
overcome in part by the seizure of Tami 
Drome, on the coast six miles east of Hum- 
boldt Bay. 

Tami Drome was ready for use by trans- 
port aircraft on 3 May. From unloading 
points at Humboldt Bay, small craft light- 
ered supplies to the mouth of the Tami 
River, whence trucks hauled the materiel to 
Tami Drome. From that field CM-7 aircraft 
shuttled supplies to Cyclops and Hollandia 
Dromes, probably executing one of the short- 
est field-to-field air supply missions on 
record. 30 

But these efforts at local air supply proved 
inadequate, and with no marked improve- 
ment of road conditions the supply situa- 
tion for troops inland deteriorated rapidly. 
The 186th Infantry, for instance, subsisted 
for three or four days principally on rice and 
canned fish from captured Japanese ration 
dumps. 31 The 24th Division was in like 
straits. Finally, all local measures became 
insufficient to meet the needs of the inland 
infantry units, to say nothing of the thou- 
sands of engineer troops who began pouring 
into the airfield area on 27 April. Conse- 
quently, on 4 May, the Reckless Task 
Force requested that 20,000 rations be 
flown daily to the Hollandia airfields from 
eastern New Guinea Services of Supply 
bases. This particular phase of the air trans- 
port was begun immediately and ceased 

80 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 14, 19-20; 
Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp. 48- 
51; 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 88-89, 153- 
54. 

31 This information on the 186th Infantry was sup- 
plied to the author by Colonel Newman, ex-com- 
manding officer of the 186th Infantry, who read and 
made notes on this and other draft chapters of the 
volume during March 1950. These notes are here- 
after cited as Newman Notes. Copy in OCMH files. 



82 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



about 15 May, by which time local over- 
land transportation had greatly improved. 

Many expedifents were employed to get 
the roads into shape both for supply move- 
ments and to send inland the heavy engi- 
neering equipment that was needed to 
repair the three airfields. To avoid some of 
the worst stretches of the Pirn-Lake Sentani 
road, especially those along the north shore 
of the lake, overwater movements were exe- 
cuted. Small boats and amphibian vehicles 
were laboriously hauled to Koejaboe (cap- 
tured on 25 April) from Humboldt Bay, 
and from the Koejaboe jetty supplies and 
equipment were transported across the lake 
to Nefaar. Meanwhile, engineers kept up 
steady work on the road inland from Pirn. 
Landslides, mud, and lack of heavy equip- 
ment hindered rapid reconstruction of the 
Depapre— Lake Sentani road, over which 
few attempts were made to move supplies 
after 26 April. 32 

In order to organize and control supply 
activities, the Reckless Task Force set up 
supply "Sub-Sectors" at Tami Drome, Cape 
Pie, Cape Tjeweri, and Pirn. The officers in 
charge of each Sub-Sector were made re- 
sponsible for clearing the beaches, making 
the most efficient use of available lighterage, 
speeding the flow of supplies inland, and 
controlling local troop movements. This de- 
centralization of responsibility from the task 
force G-A relieved that section of burden- 
some detail work and operating functions, 
permitting it to revert to the normal role of 
planning, overseeing, and co-ordinating. As 
time passed, roads were repaired or new 



32 RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 19-20. It is the 
author's remembrance that the good road which was 
finally built from the airfields to Tanahmerah Bay 
was completed in July 1944. This road, an impres- 
sive engineering feat, led to Seventh Fleet fuel in- 
stallations at Tanahmerah Bay, where PT boats 
were based. 



ones constructed, air supply became auto- 
matic, shipping difficulties were straightened 
out, and the supply situation gradually 
improved. 33 

Although the terrain and the unlucky 
bomb hit on White Beach 1 did much to 
complicate the supply problems of the 
Reckless Task Force, other explanations 
for the difficulties are to be found in the task 
force G^i Section's reports: "Operation 
'G' [Hollandia] was a logistical nightmare 
due primarily to the fact that too much was 
thrown too soon into too small an area. 
Under the circumstances, it is felt that the 
Operation progressed far more smoothly 
than should be reasonably expected." 34 
And again: "Operation G almost com- 
pletely 'bogged down' due to the fact that 
in both objective areas [Tanahmerah and 
Humboldt Bays] many more vehicles, pieces 
of heavy equipment, and supplies were 
landed on the first three days than could be 
cleared from the beaches." 35 What might 
have happened at Hollandia had the Japa- 
nese been prepared can only be surmised. 

The End of the Operation 

The Reckless Task Force retained con- 
trol over supply and construction in the 
Hollandia area until 6 June. During this 
period the task force, under the direction of 
Alamo Force, initiated that construction 
which ultimately resulted in the develop- 
ment of Hollandia into a major base from 
which many future operations were sup- 
ported. The Reckless Task Force paid 
particular attention to airdromes, roads, 
docks, headquarters buildings, and dis- 
persal areas. On 6 June the Services of 

" RTF Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 20, 39. 
"Ibid., p. 41. 
35 Ibid., p. 36. 



THE HOLLANDIA OPERATION 



83 



Supply assumed responsibility for the con- 
tinuation of this development. 36 At Hol- 
landia the Services of Supply established 
Base G, under which construction was 
speeded. Major headquarters that ulti- 
mately moved to Hollandia included Gen- 
eral Headquarters of the Southwest Pacific 
Area, United States Army Forces in the Far 
East, Allied Air Forces, Allied Land Forces, 
the U. S. Seventh Fleet, the Fifth Air Force, 
Alamo Force (Sixth Army), and the U. S. 
Eighth Army. 

After 6 June patrolling in the area con- 
tinued, much of it by the 24th Division, 
which was later succeeded by other units. 
By the 6th, American casualties amounted 
to 124 men killed, 1,057 wounded, and 28 
missing. During the same period, 611 Jap- 
anese were captured and over 3,300 killed. 

Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 

54-. 



Most of the Japanese losses occurred after 
26 April (the day the airfields were cap- 
tured) during mopping up, and the bulk 
of the enemy were killed in small groups. 
The pace of the mopping-up operations is 
illustrated by the fact that 800 Japanese 
were killed during the week ending 6 June. 

In exchange for each American killed or 
wounded, to 6 June, the enemy lost four 
men. For this price, the Allies secured a for- 
ward area which lay in the heart of territory 
previously held by the Japanese. The Hol- 
landia area was to prove an excellent air, 
naval, and logistic base from which future 
operations in western New Guinea were to 
be staged and protected, and from which a 
large part of the force which invaded the 
Philippines in October 1944 set sail. 87 



" Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, pp. 
31, 58; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43,31 May 44, 
copy in G-2 DofA files. 



CHAPTER IV 



The Japanese: Pearl Harbor 
Through Hollandia 



To the Allies the Hollandia operation had 
proved an unexpectedly easy tactical suc- 
cess, since the Japanese had been strangely 
ill prepared to defend adequately this po- 
tentially powerful base. General MacArthur 
had sent one and two-thirds reinforced divi- 
sions against Hollandia on the assumption 
that 14,000 Japanese, including nearly two 
regiments of infantry, would be found 
there. 1 But no strong Japanese resistance and 
little co-ordinated defense had been en- 
countered there. 2 It appears that about 
1 1,000 Japanese of all services were at Hol- 
landia on 22 April and that ground combat 
elements were represented by no more than 
500 antiaircraft artillerymen. 3 

1 Memo, GHQ SWPA, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, 
sub: Considerations Affecting the Plan to Seize 
Humboldt Bay Area with Strong Support of Car- 
riers, in Ala mo G-3 T nl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; 
see also above JCh. II. Just prior to D Day, new G-2 
estimates raised the total to 15,000 Japanese, but 
lowered combat strength to 1,000. GHQ SWPA, 
G-2 DSEI 755, 16 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 16 
Apr 44. This revised estimate was made too late to 
affect Allied plans. 

2 At first, when no fighting took place at the 
beachheads, General .MacArthur's G-2 considered 
it probable that the Japanese had withdrawn inland 
to make a final, determined stand around the air- 
fields. GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 764, 25 Apr 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Apr 44. 

3 Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 44, 7 Jun 44, copy 
in G-2 DofA files; 18th Army Opns, III, 41-48; 
Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 48-51. 

The Alamo source states that 8,981 Japanese 



There are many reasons for Japanese un- 
preparedness at Hollandia. First, the Japa- 
nese had been caught by surprise, tactically 
speaking. Second, there had been sweeping 
changes in their command structure at Hol- 
landia just before 22 April. Third, not 
enough combat equipment was available 
at Hollandia even to arm properly the thou- 
sands of service troops who were there. 
Finally, and most important, time had 
worked against the Japanese in the case of 
Hollandia just as time had worked against 
them throughout the Pacific since their first 
successes in late 1941 and early 1942. 

Strategy and Dispositions to April 1944 
The Japanese Situation to Mid-1943 

The Japanese entered World War II with 
limited objectives in mind, having no plan 

were at Hollandia on 22 April. The 18th Army cita- 
tion provides two figures: the first, as of ten days 
prior to the Allied landings, gives a total of 14,700; 
while the second, for which no specific date is given, 
sets figures of 10,000 Japanese Army troops and 
1,000 Japanese Navy troops. In the light of other 
estimates, the first 18th Army figure is believed to 
overlook the number of Japanese Army Air Force 
pilots and ground crewmen evacuated from Hollan- 
dia during April before the Allied landings and, ap- 
parently, makes no allowance for casualties resulting 
from Allied air action before 22 April. The 2d 
Area Army monograph states that approximately 
10,000 Japanese were at Hollandia on D Day. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



85 



to press home their attacks or to meet and 
defeat the main body of the forces opposing 
them. Initially, they intended only to knock 
out the U. S. Pacific Fleet, to seize Malaya 
and the Netherlands East Indies, to occupy 
the Philippine Islands, and to gain control 
over a defensive perimeter reaching south- 
westward from the Kuriles (north of Japan) 
through Wake Island, the Marianas, the 
Carolines, and the Marshalls, to Rabaul. 
After attaining these objectives, the Japa- 
nese expected ultimately to obtain from the 
United States and Britain a negotiated 
peace which would leave Japan in possession 
of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity 
Sphere." 

Quickly, in late 1941 and early 1942, the 
Japanese seized their initial perimeter and 
brought under military control most of the 
contemplated Greater East Asia Co-Pros- 
perity Sphere except for southern China. 
But no negotiated peace was forthcoming. 
On the contrary, the United States and 
Britain gave every indication that they 
would mount counteroffensives long before 
the Japanese anticipated such action. The 
United States began to develop a line of 
communications to Australia and to rein- 
force that continent as a base for future 
operations. 4 



4 Interrog of Fit Adm Osamu Nagano [Chief of 
the Navy Section, Imperial GHQ, and Supreme 
Naval Adviser to the Emperor], 30 Nov 45, in 
United States Strategic Bombing Survey [USSBS], 
Interrog 498, copy in OCMH files; USSBS, Sum- 
mary Report [Pacific War] (Washington, 1946) p. 
2. In addition to the specific documents cited in this 
chapter, the author was furnished additional infor- 
mation by Mr. Clarke Kawakami, research assistant 
to Commodore Richard W. Bates (USN), of the 
Naval War College, Mr. Kawakami's remarks on 
the original draft of this chapter were based on re- 
search into Japanese sources and on interviews with 
high-ranking Japanese Army and Navy officers un- 
dertaken while he was a member of the G— 2 Histor- 
ical Section of GHQ FEC in Tokyo. 



Returning to plans considered but not 
approved prior to the war, 5 Japanese Im- 
perial General Headquarters, early in 1942, 
developed in a piecemeal fashion plans to 
expand the perimeter already seized. Dis- 
carding as impossible of execution a Navy 
plan to take Australia, Imperial General 
Headquarters determined to cut the line of 
communications from the United States to 
Australia by occupying New Caledonia, the 
Fiji Islands, and Samoa. Flank protection 
for the new perimeter was to be obtained 
on the south by seizing Port Moresby, in 
southeastern New Guinea, and on the north 
by securing bases in the American Aleutian 
Islands. The Japanese hoped that the 
United States would wear itself out in at- 
tacks against the new perimeter, find itself 
unable to mount stronger counteroffensives, 
and thus afford Japan better opportunity to 
secure a negotiated peace. 

During the spring and summer of 1942 
the initial Japanese attempts to expand the 
perimeter met with disaster during the 
Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Un- 
daunted, the Japanese expanded southward 
from Rabaul down the chain of Solomon 
Islands to seize air bases in preparation for 
the advance to Fiji, New Caledonia, and 
Samoa. At the same time they attempted to 
capture Port Moresby by overland action. 
American landings at Guadalcanal in the 



8 As outlined in Combined Fleet Top Secret Opn 
Order 1, 5 Nov 41, translation in Joint Congressional 
Investigation Committee, Pearl Harbor Attack 
(Washington, 1946), Pt. XIII, Exhibit 8, pp. 431- 
84. 

"Japanese Studies in WW II, 72, Hist of Army 
Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 45-46, 50-54, copy of 
translation in OCMH files; Kawakami Comments. 
The plan to move into the Solomons and eastern 
New Guinea, including Fort Moresby, was developed 
in late January 1942; the plan to move into Fiji, 
New Caledonia, and Samoa, in late April; and the 
plan to seize bases in the Aleutians not until late 
May or early June. 



86 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Solomons during August stopped the Japa- 
nese expansion to the southeast, and Aus- 
tralian troops threw the enemy back from 
Port Moresby later in the year. The Japanese 
realized by September 1942 that they had 
overreached themselves and directed their 
energies to strengthening their forces in 
eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, and the 
Bismarck Archipelago. 7 

To control operations in these areas, the 
Japanese, in November 1 942, established at 
Rabaul the headquarters of the 8th Area 
Army. Under this headquarters was placed 
the 17 th Army, already operating in the 
Solomons and eastern New Guinea, and 
the 1 8th Army, which was set up at Rabaul 
in November to take over control of opera- 
tions in eastern New Guinea. About the 
same time the 6th Air Division was organ- 
ized, placed under the 8th Area Army's con- 
trol, and sent to New Guinea. The 17th 
Army failed in attempts to retake Guadal- 
canal, while in eastern New Guinea the 18th 
Army fared no better in trying to maintain 
its hold on the north coast of Papua at Buna 
and Gona. The two campaigns made heavy 
inroads into Japanese ground, air, and naval 
strength. Imperial General Headquarters 
paused to take stock. 8 

At the close of 1942 Imperial General 
Headquarters estimated that the Allies in- 
tended to conduct a two-pronged drive 
toward Rabaul (then the principal Japa- 
nese forward base in the Southwest Pacific 
Area) from eastern New Guinea and the 
Solomons. The Japanese expected that the 
Allies would then move up the northern 
coast of New Guinea toward the Philippines 

7 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 50-66. 

' Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 68- 
74; MID WD, Disposition and Movement of Jap- 
anese Ground Forces, 1941—45, copy in OCMH files; 
Japanese Studies in WW II, 38, Southeast Area Air 
Opns, pp. 2—4, copy in OGMH files. 



and, possibly, conduct another advance to- 
ward the Philippines from northwestern 
Australia through the Netherlands East 
Indies. Recognizing that the initiative had 
been lost, and faced with a lack of shipping 
and diminishing air and naval power, Im- 
perial General Headquarters decided upon 
a strategic withdrawal in order to build up 
defenses against the expected Allied drives 
and to prepare bases from which future 
offensives might be launched. 

Accordingly, on 4 January 1943, Japan 
set up a strategic defensive line running 
through the southern Indies to W ewak, on 
the northeastern coast of New Guinea be- 
tween Hollandia and the Buna— Gona area. 
From Wewak the line ran southeastward to 
Lae and Salamaua, whence it jumped 
to the south coast of New Britain, up to 
Rabaul, and south along the Solomons 
to New Georgia. To the north the line ran 
through the Gilbert Islands, the Marianas, 
W ake, and the Aleutians. 

The 1 7th Army now began building new 
defenses in the northern Solomons, with- 
drawing from Guadalcanal. Lt. Gen. Ha- 
tazo Adachi, commanding the 18th Army, 
moved his headquarters from Rabaul to Lae 
in March and prepared to defend what was 
left of eastern New Guinea. To strengthen 
this area the 41st Division was moved from 
China to eastern New Guinea during the 
same month. About the same time the bulk 
of the 51st Division, some of which was 
already in New Guinea, began shuttling to 
the Lae area from New Britain. Large-scale 
attempts to reinforce the 18th Army ended 
in early March after the Battle of the Bis- 
marck Sea, during which the / 1 5th Infantry 
of the 5/5/ Division was practically wiped 
out when the convoy carrying it from New 
Britain to Lae fell prey to Allied air action. 
The 20th Division, already in eastern New 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



87 



Guinea, was placed under General Adachi's 
command in April." 

Operations in the Philippines and the 
Netherlands East Indies since the beginning 
of the war had been under the control of the 
Southern Army, 10 subordinate to which were 
the 14th Army in the Philippines and the 
16th Army in the Indies. On 7 January the 
19th Army was set up under the Southern 
Army to relieve the 16th Army of responsi- 
bility for Timor, the islands of the Arafura 
Sea, Dutch New Guinea, Ceram, Ambon, 
Halmahera, and Morotai. The 48th Divi- 
sion, in the Indies since early 1942, and the 
newly arrived 5th Division were placed 
under the 19th Army, which established its 
command post at Ambon. Troops and sup- 
plies destined for the 19th Army passed 
through the Philippines, while the Palau 
Islands, already in use to some extent for 
such purposes, assumed new importance as 
a staging area through which men and 
equipment going to the 8th Area Army 
passed. Initially the boundary between the 
19th and 18th Armies (and therefore be- 
tween the Southern and 8th Area Armies) 
was the Dutch-Australian international 
border across central New Guinea. But in 
April 1943 this boundary was changed to 
1 40 degrees east longitude in order to place 
Hollandia within the 8th Area Army's zone 
of responsibility. 11 

9 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 70- 
78; MID WD, op, cit.; Japanese Studies in WW II, 
37, Hist of 8th Area Army, 1942^-5, copy in OGMH 
files; Japanese Studies in WW II, 41, 18th Army 
Opns, I, 87-97, copy in OCMH files. General 
Adachi went to New Guinea twice in March, but 
his headquarters was not permanently established 
at Lae until April. 

16 Some translations render Southern Army as 
Southern Area Army. 

11 Hist of 8th Area Army, p. 1 1 ; Hist of 2d Area 
Army, pp. 4—6; Japanese Studies in WW II, 21, 
Hist of Southern Area Army, 1941-45, pp. 29-35, 
copy in OCMH files. The 15th Army, in Burma, 



Japanese Strategic Withdrawals 
■to April 1944 

Slow but steady Allied progress in eastern 
New Guinea and the Solomons during the 
spring and summer of 1943 prompted Im- 
perial General Headquarters to send air re- 
inforcements to the 8th Area Army, The 7th 
Air Division, organized in January 1943 for 
operations in the Netherlands East Indies, 
was transferred to the command of the 8th 
Area Army in late May or early June and 
began sending planes to eastern New 
Guinea in June. To co-ordinate the opera- 
tions of the 6th and 7th Air Divisions, the 
headquarters of the 4th Air Army was set up 
at Rabaul under the 8th Area Army. The 
6th Air Division was to concentrate its 
strength at Rabaul, the Admiralty Islands, 
Wewak, and Hansa Bay, east of Wewak. 
The 7th Air Division was to develop rear 
area bases immediately west of Wewak and 
also at Aitape and Hollandia. 12 

In September 1943 the pace of Allied 
operations in eastern New Guinea was ac- 
celerated and it appeared to the Japanese 
that an invasion of New Britain was prob- 
able. Unable to think of any feasible way to 
reinforce the area in the face of increasing 
Allied air and naval action, Imperial Gen- 
eral Headquarters decided upon another 
strategic withdrawal. Having already lost 
the Aleutians, Japan established a new 
strategic main line of resistance along the 
line southern Indies, Dutch New Guinea, 
the Carolines, and the Marianas, back to 
the Kuriles. The former all-important east- 
ern New Guinea-Bismarck Archipelago- 
northern Solomons area was relegated to 
the status of a holding front, while behind 

and the 25th Army, at Singapore, were also under 
the Southern Army. 

12 Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 13-18; Hist of 8th 
Area Army, pp. 15-31. 



88 TH 

the new defensive line ground strength was 
to be rebuilt and new air and naval power 
was to be mustered. By the spring of 1944 
the rebuilding was to be so complete that 
offensive operations, including a naval 
showdown, could be resumed in mid- 
summer. 13 

Rabaul remained the center of the hold- 
ing front area while Hansa Bay, previously 
the main port of entry for large ships taking 
supplies and troops to the 8th Area Army, 
became a small-boat base. Hollandia took 
the place of Hansa Bay as the principal un- 
loading point and was to be developed into 
a major base from which the mid- 1944 
offensives might be supported. The distri- 
bution point for the eastern Indies and 
Dutch New Guinea became Halmahera, 
while Manokwari, on the Vogelkop Penin- 
sula of western New Guinea, became the 
main supply base for western New Guinea. 
Other air and supply bases were to be de- 
veloped at Sorong, at the western tip of the 
Vogelkop, and on the islands in Geelvink 
Bay. The Palaus retained their status as a 
staging area for men and supplies moving 
southeastward toward New Guinea. 14 

In October and November 1943 Allied 
forces of the South Pacific Area drove up 
the chain of Solomon Islands to Bougain- 
ville, new stronghold of the 17th Army; 
Central Pacific Area forces invaded the 
Gilberts ; and Southwest Pacific Area troops 
trapped part of the 18th Army on the Huon 
Peninsula of eastern New Guinea. The Jap- 
anese Navy sent the bulk of its carrier-based 
air strength to Rabaul in a vain attempt to 

13 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 84- 
96 ; Japanese Studies in WW II, 50, Southeast Area 
Naval Opns, III, 2-5, copy in OCMH files. 

11 Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 4; Hist of 
Army Section, Imperial GHQ, p. 92 ; Hist of South- 
ern Area Army, pp. 44-47; Japanese Studies in WW 
II, 42, 18th Army Opns, II, 134, copy in OCMH 
files. 



APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 

stem the tide of Allied advance, but this 
move ended in disaster for practically all 
of the Japanese Navy's carrier-based air- 
craft. Coupled with concurrent losses of 
cruisers, the decimation of the carrier-based 
air power resulted in the temporary im- 
mobilization of the Japanese Fleet. 10 

Imperial General Headquarters now gave 
up hope of long holding the eastern New 
Guinea-Solomons-Bismarck Archipelago 
area and became perturbed about the open- 
ing of a new Allied front in the Central Pa- 
cific, presaged by the invasion of the Gil- 
berts. Imperial General Headquarters was 
again worried lest the Allies mount an offen- 
sive toward the Philippines from northwest- 
ern Australia, and it still firmly believed that 
a drive northwest up the north coast of New 
Guinea was to be undertaken by the forces 
under General Mac Arthur's command. To 
strengthen the eastern Indies and western 
New Guinea, plans were made to send the 
3d, 36th, and 46th Divisions to that area 
from China or Japan. To control future 
operations in the region, the Headquarters, 
2d Area Army, was dispatched from Man- 
churia to Davao, Mindanao, in the Philip- 
pines, where it arrived during late Novem- 
ber 1943. Sent south with Lt. Gen. Korechi- 
ka Anami's 2d Area Army headquarters 
was the headquarters of the 2d Army, under 
Lt. Gen. Fusataro Teshima, who established 
his command post at Manokwari on the 

"Southeast Area Naval Opns III, 5; GHQ 
SWPA, G-3 Hist Div, Chronology of the War in the 
SWPA, 1941-45, copy in OCMH files; Tabular Rec- 
ords of Daily Movements of Japanese Battleships, 
Carriers, and Cruisers, in WW II Seized Enemy 
Records, Record Group 242, Doc 11792, National 
Archives; Vols. Ill and IV of Aircraft Carriers, part 
of a series of "Greater East Asia War Campaigns : 
Materials for Investigation of Meritorious Service," 
in WW II Seized Enemy Records, Rec Grp 242, 
Docs 12552 and 12060, respectively. Last two as 
translated and analyzed by Mr. Thomas G. Wilds, 
Pacific Section, OCMH. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



89 



Vogelkop Peninsula. The 2d Army and the 
19 th Army were both placed under the con- 
trol of the 2d A r °.a Army which, in turn, was 
directly under Imperial General Headquar- 
ters. The 2d Area Army was to hold the area 
from 140 degrees east longitude, west to 
Macassar Strait and south from 5 degrees 
north latitude. Hollandia remained within 
the 8 th Area Army's zone of responsibility. 16 
The 36th Division began arriving at 
Sarmi, 125 miles west-northwest of Hol- 
landia, in December 1943, while one regi- 
ment, the 222d Infantry, reached Biak Is- 
land in Geelvink Bay the same month. 
Remnants of the 46th Division, most of 
which was sunk in transit by Allied sub- 
marines, arrived in the Lesser Soendas about 
the same time. Because of developments in 
central China, the 3d Division was left in 
that country. Initially, the 14th Division was 
substituted for the 3d, but neither did it 
ever reach New Guinea. The 36th Division 
passed to the control of the 2d Army, and 
the 46th was placed under command of the 
19th Army. The 7th Air Division, which 
had hardly started moving toward eastern 
New Guinea, was taken from the control of 
the 8th Area Army and reassigned to the 2d 
Area Army. The air division headquarters 
was set up at Ambon in November, and 
shortly thereafter the few planes remaining 
among those previously sent to eastern 
New Guinea went to Ambon. 17 Finally, to 



" Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 9-1 3 ; 2d Area Army 
Opn Plan A-l, 23 Nov 43, as cited in Hist of 2d 
Area Army, pp. 14-2 1 ; Hist of Southern Area Army, 
pp. 45-47; Hist of Army Section, Imperial CHQ, 
pp. 94—96 ; Kawakami Comments. Lt. Gen. Kenzo 
Kitano, the 19th Army's commander, commanded 
the 4th Division in the Philippines in 1942. This di- 
vision spearheaded the final Japanese drive which 
resulted in the American surrender at Bataan and 
Corregidor. See Morton, The Fall of the Philippines. 

17 Japanese Studies in WW II, 32, 2d Army Opns 
in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 1-2, copy in 



strengthen the front against the threat of 
Allied advance across the central Pacific, 
Imperial General Headquarters dispatched 
the 52d Division to the Carolines. There it 
and other Japanese Army units either al- 
ready in the Central Pacific or on their way 
to that area passed to the operational control 
of the Combined Fleet. 18 

During the last months of 1943 and the 
opening months of 1944 Allied offensive 
moves continued at an ever-increasing rate. 
In the Southwest Pacific the entire Huon 
Peninsula area was cleared of Japanese 
troops, and a foothold was seized in western 
New Britain. In the South Pacific the Jap- 
anese could not stem the Allied advance 
in the northern Solomons, and the Allies 
moved on to seize an airfield site on Green 
Island, east of Rabaul and within easy 
fighter range of that base. The final steps 
in the isolation of Rabaul were the seizure 
of the Admiralty Islands by Allied forces 
of the Southwest Pacific Area in February 
and March 1 944, and the capture of Emirau 
Island by South Pacific Area troops in 
March. In the Central Pacific events moved 
just as rapidly. In January and February 
Allied forces advanced into the Marshall 
Islands, while carrier-based aircraft of the 
U. S. Pacific Fleet struck heavily at Truk, 
previously the Combined Fleet's strongest 
advance base. 10 



OCMH files; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 44- 
57; Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 25-29; Interrog of 
Col Rinsuke Kaneko ( JAAF), 21 Nov 45, in USSBS 
[Pacific], Naval Analysis Division, Interrogations of 
Japanese Officials, 2 vols. (Washington, 1946, 
OPNAV-P-03-100), II, 404-08; 2d Area Army 
Opn Order, no number, 28 Nov 43, as translated in 
GHQ SWPA, ATIS Current Translation 131, 31 
Jul 44; Kawakami Comments. 

18 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ., p. 93; 
Japanese Studies in WW II, 55, Central Pacific 
Opns, pp. 17-18, copy in OCMH files. 

10 GHQ SWPA, G-3 Hist Div, Chronology of the 
War in the SWPA. 



90 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



The Japanese high command was again 
forced to issue withdrawal orders and to 
make attempts to strengthen forward area 
positions. The Allied advances in eastern 
New Guinea prompted the 8th Area Army 
to order the 18th Army to retreat to Ma- 
dang. On 8 January 1944 General Adachi 
moved his 18th Army headquarters by sub- 
marine from Sio, on the Huon Peninsula, 
to Madang, only eight days before Aus- 
tralian troops seized Sio. Shortly after that 
narrow escape, the command post was 
moved still farther westward to Wewak. 20 

About 10 February the Combined Fleet, 
recognizing that the establishment of Allied 
air bases on the Admiralties and Marshalls 
would bring all the Carolines within range 
of Allied bombers, decided that the Truk 
fleet base was no longer tenable. The opinion 
was forcibly strengthened by the Pacific 
Fleet carrier strike on Truk later in the 
month, and Combined Fleet headquarters 
was moved to the Palaus. About the same 
time, the Japanese Navy abandoned all 
hope of conducting successful operations in 
the Bismarck Archipelago-northern Solo- 
mons area and withdrew the last remnants 
of its air power from Rabaul. 21 

More drastic redispositions and new 
changes in command structure were effected 
by both the Japanese Army and Navy in 
March and early April 1944. The Combined 
Fleet had no intention of making the Palaus 
a permanent base but planned to use the 
base only as a temporary advanced anchor- 
age until new base facilities in the Philip- 

S0 Hist of 8th Area Army, p. 46; MID WD, op. 
cit.; Interrog of Gapt Shigeru Iwaki, 21 Feb 46, in 
GHQ SCAP, ATIS Doc 14924-A, copy in OCMH 
files. 

21 Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 2-9; Interrog 
of Comdr Chikataka Nakajima [staff of CinC, Com- 
bined Fleet], 22 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations 
of Japanese Officials, II, 432-35. 



pines could be developed. The ultimate 
withdrawal of Combined Fleet headquar- 
ters and surface units from the Palaus was 
speeded by the carrier raids of the U. S. 
Fifth Fleet on those islands at the end of 
March, when the American carriers were 
providing strategic support for the Hol- 
landia operation. The Japanese Navy, as a 
result of these carrier raids and, later, the 
threat of Allied land-based bomber attacks 
on the Palaus from Hollandia, ceased to 
be much interested in the Palaus. 

But Imperial General Headquarters, in 
March, was still determined to strengthen 
the central Pacific. Accordingly, early that 
month, the headquarters of the 3 1st Army, 
Maj. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata commanding, 
was set up on Guam in the Marianas to ex- 
ercise command under direction of the 
Combined Fleet of all Japanese Army units 
in the Central Pacific islands. The 29th 
Division was sent out to the Marianas in 
March also, and plans were made to send 
the 43d Division to the same islands. 22 

The portion of the strategic main line of 
resistance for which the 31st Army was 
responsible extended along the line Bonins— 
Volcanos- Marianas- Ponape-Truk-Wo- 
leai-Yap-Palaus. At the Palaus the line tied 
into the 2d Area Army's zone of responsi- 
bility. So far, the Palaus had been little more 
than a staging area, and few combat troops 
were on the islands. In March, line of com- 
munications troops, replacements, and rear 
echelons of various 8th Area Army units in 
the Palaus passed with their commander, 
Maj. Gen. Takeo Yamaguchi, to the control 

23 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ,, p. 93; 
Central Pacific Opns, pp. 17-18; MID WD, Order 
of Battle of the Japanese Armed Forces, 1 Mar 45, 
pp. 72, 100. The 43d Division's convoy suffered 
heavy losses on the trip to the Marianas, but the 
remnants of the division arrived in the islands in 
May. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLAND IA 



91 



of the 2d Area Army. More wide-sweeping 
changes were due in the Palaus, for by 
March Imperial General Headquarters was 
worried lest the Palaus were to become an 
immediate target of Allied invasion. It was 
therefore decided to send strong reinforce- 
ments to the Palaus, and the 14th Division 
was scheduled for shipment to the islands 
from northern China. The 35th Division 
was promised to the 2d Area Army in place 
of the 14th, but, since it would be some time 
before the 14th Division could reach the 
Palaus, the 219th Infantry (less one battal- 
ion, but with a battalion of artillery at- 
tached) of the 35th Division was sent on to 
the Palaus, where it landed during March. 
The remainder of the 35th Division pro- 
ceeded to Halmahera and western New 
Guinea via the Philippines, delayed as a 
result of Allied submarine attacks on the 
convoy carrying it southward. 

The U. S. Fifth Fleet's carrier raid on the 
Palaus at the end of March apparently 
prompted Imperial General Headquarters 
to expect an invasion of the Palaus in the 
near future. Obviously, the understrength 
regimental combat team of the 35th Divi- 
sion could not hold those islands, and there- 
fore efforts were made to speed the shipment 
of the 14th Division. Destined originally for 
western New Guinea and even later for the 
Marianas, the 14th Division finally set sail 
for the Palaus early in April, reaching those 
islands safely on the 24th of the month, just 
two days after the Allied landings at Hol- 
landia. During the ensuing weeks the ele- 
ments of the 35th Division already in the 
Palaus left to rejoin their parent unit in 
western New Guinea. Lt. Gen. Sadae Inoue, 
commanding the 14th Division, was ap- 
pointed Commander, Palau Sector Group, 
in which capacity his area of responsibility 
included Yap in the Carolines, as well as the 



Palaus. General Yamaguchi's staging area 
forces already in the Palaus passed to Gen- 
eral Inoue's command, probably about the 
same time that the 14th Division arrived in 
the islands. 23 

Equally radical changes had been made 
to the south. Recognizing that the 8th Area 
Army and the 17th Army were irretrievably 
cut off, Imperial General Headquarters, on 
14 March 1944, wrote them off as a loss, or- 
dering them to hold out as best they could. 
About the same time the 18th Army and the 
4th Air Army were transferred to the juris- 
diction of the 2d Area Army, for it was evi- 
dent that the 8th Area Army's headquarters 
at Rabaul could no longer exercise effective 
control over the two units. The boundary 
between the 2d and 8th Area Armies was 
moved eastward to 147 degrees east longi- 
tude (the Admiralties, however, remained 
under the 8th Area Army). The 18th Army, 
then reorganizing at Madang, was brought 
well within the 2d Area Army's zone, as 
were the Japanese bases at Hansa Bay, 
Wewak, Aitape, and Hollandia. 

Imperial General Headquarters ordered 
the 2d Area Army to hold all the territory 
west of Wewak within its zone and to pull 
the 18th Army west from Madang to We- 
wak, Aitape, and Hollandia. The 2d Area 
Army was also instructed to develop Hol- 
landia into a major supply base, but neither 
this development nor the 18th Arm// "s with- 
drawal was to interfere with more important 
defense preparations in western Nfcw Guinea 
and the islands between the Vogelkop 
Peninsula and the Philippines. Given this 
leeway, the 2d Area Army decided to con- 
centrate its efforts in strengthening a stra- 

23 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 87- 
93, 109, 121-23; Central Pacific Opns, pp. 17-18; 
Japanese Studies in WW II, 56, The Palau Opns, 
pp. 4-5, 45-47, 57-61, copy in OGMH files ; Kawa- 
kami Comments, 



92 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tegic defensive front along the line from the 
Lesser Soendas through the Aroe Islands 
in the Arafura Sea, north to Mimika on the 
southwest coast of Dutch New Guinea, and 
thence to the Wakde-Sarmi area, 1 25 miles 
northwest of Hollandia. Although this de- 
cision would obviously leave the 18th Army 
out in the cold insofar as supplies or rein- 
forcements were concerned, Imperial Gen- 
eral Headquarters approved the 2d Area 
Army's plan without recorded comment. 24 

To strengthen the 2d Area Army, the 32 d 
and 35th Divisions had already been dis- 
patched toward western New Guinea and 
Halmahera, where they began arriving in 
late April. Air redispositions also took place. 
The 4th Air Army headquarters and the 
6th Air Division moved from Wewak to 
Hollandia in March (both had moved from 
Rabaul to Wewak in late 1943). Though 
reinforced, the 6th Air Division was prac- 
tically wiped out by Allied air attacks during 
March and April, 25 but its headquarters 
remained at Hollandia. 

Defensive planning of the 4th Air Army 
and the 2d Area Army was thrown askew 
by the aircraft losses at Hollandia, and the 
Japanese had to decide whether they could 
again afford to risk a large number of planes 
as far forward as Hollandia, or whether 
remaining air power should be reconcen- 
trated farther westward. Since the 2d Area 
Army had already decided to establish its 
main defensive line west of Hollandia, the 
decision was obvious — no more large num- 
bers of aircraft were to be sent to Hollandia. 

The 4th Air Army's headquarters moved 

24 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ,, pp. 107— 
1 1 ; 2d Area Army Opn Order A-40, 20 Mar 44, as 
translated in Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 
44, copy in G-2 Dof A files. 

25 The destruction of the 6th Air Division is dis- 
cussed in Ch. II, above. 



west from Hollandia on 15 April and re- 
established the command post at Manado 
in the Celebes, to which town the 2d Area 
Army moved its headquarters from Davao 
a few days later. At the same time, to co- 
ordinate command in the southern regions, 
the 2d Area Army passed from the direct 
control of Imperial General Headquarters 
to the control of the intermediate link, the 
Southern Army. Simultaneously, the 4th 
Air Army passed to the direct command of 
the Southern Army. 2a 

Halmahera, already the principal distri- 
bution point for the eastern part of the 
Netherlands East Indies and for Dutch New 
Guinea, also gradually developed into a 
focal point for the Japanese defense of the 
southern approaches to the Philippines. The 
Palaus' former status as a major staging 
base was gradually curtailed, and the islands 
lost their importance to the 2d Area Army. 21 
General Anami was again instructed by 
Imperial General Headquarters rapidly to 
develop, behind the new strategic main line 
of resistance, supply and staging bases from 
which a general offensive might be resumed 
in mid-1944. 38 



26 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ,, pp. 1 10— 
13, 120-23;Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 30-44,47-48, 
53-55; Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 16-18, 36; 
18th Army Opns, III, 41-46; 4th Air Army Opn- 
Order A-250, 22 Mar 44, in GHQ SWPA, ATIS 
Enemy Publication 268, 4 Jan 45, copy in OGMH 
files; Intcrrog of Col. Kaneko, 21 Nov 45, in 
USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 
404-08; AAF SWPA Int Sum 197, 8 Apr 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 7 Apr 44. 

21 Alamo Force, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit with Re- 
spect to Morotai, 1 Aug 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Morotai, 2-8 Aug 44; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly 
Rpts 44 and 51, 7 Jun and 26 Jul 44, respectively, 
copies in G-2 Dof A files; Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 
53-55. 

28 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ,, pp. 
84-96. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



93 



Japan's Pacific Order of Battle, 
April 1944 

Thus, in the area of principal immediate 
interest to Allied forces of the Southwest 
Pacific as they moved toward Hollandia in 
April 1944, the Japanese high command 
centered in General Count Hisaichi Ter- 
auchi's Southern Army, with headquarters 
at Singapore. 29 Under the Southern Army 
was the 2d Area Army, headquarters at 
Manado, which in turn controlled the 2d, 
18th, and 19th Armies. The 2d Area Army 
had about 170,000 troops under its com- 
mand. In western New Guinea and the 
Hamahera region was the 2d Army, 
headquarters at Manokwari, comprising the 
32d, 35th, and 36th Divisions, and miscel- 
laneous other units, totaling about 50,000 
men. The strength of the 19th Army, spread 
over most of the rest of the Netherlands East 
Indies, was also about 50,000 troops, cen- 
tered around the 5th, 46th, and 48th Divi- 
sions. 

The 8th Area Army, controlled directly 
by Imperial General Headquarters, retained 
under its command in the Solomons and 
Bismarck Archipelago the 17th Army, the 
38th Division, the 65th Brigade, and the 
remnants of the 6th and 17th Divisions. 
Total strength of the 8th Area Army in April 
1944 was perhaps 80,000 men. In the 
Philippines the Southern Army had under 
its command the 14th Army, comprising the 
1 6th Division and four independent mixed 
brigades. The 14th Army had about 45,000 
combat troops under its control, and total 
Japanese strength in the Philippines was 
about 100,000 men, including air, naval, 
and army service troops. On the Central 
Pacific islands was the 31st Army, under the 
operational control of the Central Pacific 

10 Southern Army headquarters moved to Manila 
in mid-May 1944. 



Fleet and consisting of the 14th, 29th, and 
52d Divisions, with the 43d Division on the 
way. The 31st Army was about 60,000 men 
strong. The 14th Division and other units in 
the Palaus, including naval and air, totaled 
about 30,000 men. 30 

When the 18th Army, passed to the con- 
trol of the 2d Area Army in March 1944, 
General Adachi had under his control from 
50,000 to 60,000 men. His three infantry 
divisions, the 20th, 41st, and 51st, had all 
been badly battered in fighting in eastern 
New Guinea and, since January, had been 
suffering heavy casualties during withdrawal 
from the Huon Peninsula area. At the time 
of the change in command, the 20th Divi- 
sion was painfully reorganizing at Madang 
(east of which it was fighting a rear guard 
action against Australian troops) and 
Hansa Bay. The 41st Division was deployed 
in the Madang area and was preparing to 
move westward, while the 51st Division was 
assembling at Wewak for rehabilitation and 
reorganization. The total strength of the 
three divisions at the time of the Allied 
landings at Hollandia probably did not ex- 
ceed 20,000 trained combat effectives. 31 



M The figures given above were derived by Mr. 
Burke C. Peterson, of the Pacific Section, OCMH, 
from a mass of Japanese and Allied sources. The lo- 
cation of units was derived from the Japanese Army 
sources cited in the preceding section. 

81 MID WD, Disposition and Movement of Jap- 
anese Ground Forces, 1941—45, copy in OCMH 
files; GHQ SWPA, G-2 Monthly Sum of Enemy 
Dispositions, 30 Apr 44, copy in OCMH files; GHQ 
SWPA, G-2 DSEI's 761 and 828, 22 Apr and 28 
Jun 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 22 Apr and 28 Jun 44; 
18th Army Opns, Annex A-Statistics, Supplemen- 
tary Chart No, 1. Definitive figures for the strength 
of the 18th Army in April 1944 are simply not avail- 
able and all sources are contradictory. General Mac- 
Arthur's G-2 Section put the 18th Army strength 
for April at about 45,000 men. Alamo Force and 
Allied Land Forces consistently gave much higher 
estimates, running from 55,000 to 65,000, while 
the Japanese source cites a figure of about 75,000 
for 1 April. 



Chart 5 — Japanese Army Operational Organization in the Southwest Pacific Area: April 1944 (a) 



td Army 



3id 
Division 



ISlh 
Division 



2d Aira Aimy 



(Slfi Aimy 



20th 
Division 



Divlt'ion 



IMPERIAL GENERAL HEADQUARTERS 
(A.rny Stclion) 



1 



IWi Army 



Slh 
Division 



46lr, 
Division 



Soulhem Army 



4Glh 

Division 



i\ h Afr Army 



61-h Air 
Division 



7fh Aif 
Division 



1 4th A(m V 



16th 
Diviiion 



III 



30lh 
1MB M 



35d 
1MB 



33 d 
1MB 



loth Army 



m 

Division 



3B,h 
Division 



Slh Aiec Aimy 



1 7lh Aimy 



6th 

Division 



6Slh 
Brigade 



8 



r Army, ne CtiQrf 6. 
1 mixtd brigade. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



95 



Co-operating with the 18th Army was the 
Japanese 9th Fleet, principal Japanese 
naval headquarters in New Guinea. The 
9th Fleet's commander was Vice Adm. 
Yoshikazu Endo, whose command post was 
located at Wewak until late March, when 
it moved to Hollandia. Admiral Endo's 
command consisted primarily of service 
troops, naval antiaircraft gunners, and a few 
shore defense units. His surface strength 
comprised only a miscellaneous collection 
of landing craft and armed barges. The ma- 
jority of the naval service troops in eastern 
New Guinea were members of the 27th 
Special Base Force, while the few Japanese 
naval personnel at Hollandia were under 
Capt. Tetsuo Onizuka, naval ground com- 
mander in the area. 32 

In western New Guinea, acting in con- 
cert with the 2d Area Army, was the 4th 
Expeditionary Fleet. The next step up the 
Japanese naval chain of command was the 
Southwest Area Fleet, controlling all Jap- 
anese naval units in the Netherlands East 
Indies area and operating directly under the 
Combined Fleet. The 9th Fleet, formerly 
under the Southeast Area Fleet's head- 
quarters at Rabaul, passed to the control of 
Southwest Area Fleet in March 1944. 33 

There were a few naval aircraft based at 
Hollandia from time to time, but Japanese 
naval air power was, generally speaking, a 
negligible factor in the New Guinea and 

^Rpt of Capt Shigeru Iwaki (staff, 9th Fleet), 21 
Feb 46, in. GHQ SGAP, ATIS Doc 14924-A, copy 
in G-2 DofA files, Doc 257846; Interrog of Capt 
Toshikazu Ohmae (IJN), 25 Nov 45, in USSBS, 
Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 409-10; 
GHQ SCAP, ATIS Doc 16947, Full Translation of 
Answers to Questions Concerning the Admiralties 
and Hollandia, 14 Apr 46, copy, in G— 2 DofA files, 
Doc 261219; 18th Army Opns, III, 41^42. 

83 Japanese Studies in WW II, 34, Naval Opns in 
the Western New Guinea Area, 1943-45, pp. 1-10, 
copy in OCMH files. 



Netherlands East Indies areas in April 1944. 

The Japanese Army Air Force, after the 
destruction of the 6th Air Division at Hol- 
landia and the withdrawal of the 4th Air 
Army's headquarters to Manado, likewise 
had little left with which to stem an Allied 
advance in New Guinea. The 4th Air Army 
had never been at full strength during its 
operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and 
New Guinea areas. Its heavy combat losses 
were aggravated by poor equipment, inade- 
quate aircraft maintenance, supply difficul- 
ties, and rough fields which could not be 
kept in repair. Its history in New Guinea 
was principally one of frustration. 34 

The Japanese at Hollandia 

Japanese Planning and Command 
at Hollandia 

The Japanese high command had been 
for some time aware of the potential im- 
portance of Hollandia and of the necessity 
for building up the defenses of the area. The 
enemy had decided to develop a major base 
at Hollandia as early as the withdrawal of 
the strategic main line of resistance in Sep- 
tember 1943. 35 The 2d Area Army, when it 
took over control in western New Guinea 
in November, perceived that holding Hol- 
landia would have great advantages and 
believed that Hollandia ought to be strongly 
defended as an outpost for the protection of 
the strategic defense lines base at Wakde- 
Sarmi, to the west. General Anami, com- 
manding the 2d Area Army, in November 

54 Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 16-18, 36; 4th 
Air Army Opns Order A-250, 22 Mar 44, as trans- 
lated in GHQ SWPA, ATIS Enemy Publication 
268, 4 Jan 45, copy in OCMH files; Interrog of 
Col Kaneko, 21 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations 
of Japanese Officials, II, 404-08. 

36 Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 90—96. 



Chart 6 — Japanese Naval Operational Organization in the Central and Southwest Pacific Areas: April 1944 



IMPERIAL GENERAL HEADQUARTERS 
(Navy Section) 



Combined Fleet Headquarters 



Southwest Area Fleet 



9th Fleet 



2d Expeditionary 

Fleet 



lit Expeditionary 



4th Expeditionary 
Fleet 



3d Expeditionary 
Fleet 



27lh Special 
Base Force 





31st Army 



14th Division 



29th Division 



43d Division 



5Sd Division 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDIA 



97 



gave some thought to sending elements of 
the 36th Division east from Sarmi to Hol- 
landia. This plan was abandoned, however, 
for at the time Hollandia was still within 
the 8th Area Army's zone of responsibility. 3 " 

The 18th Army (if not the 8th Area 
Army) attached some importance to Hol- 
landia. In January 1 944 General Adachi 
stated that Hollandia was to be ". . . the 
final base and last strategic point of [the 
18th Army's'] New Guinea operation." 17 
He outlined a plan for withdrawal to Hol- 
landia should 18th Army operations in east- 
ern New Guinea result in defeat, and he 
ordered the forces at Hollandia to exert 
themselves to develop the defenses of that 
base. General Adachi complained that the 
troops at Hollandia, being out of the active 
combat zone, were leading a life of ease, and 
he hinted that all was not well with the 
command structure at the base. In an ad- 
dress to the Hollandia garrison, delivered 
by proxy during January, the general ex- 
horted forces there to expend ". . . all your 
effort and be determined to sacrifice every- 
thing for the glorious cause." 38 But exhor- 
tations were hardly sufficient — some definite 
plan of action for the development and 
defense of Hollandia was needed. 

The 2d Area Army supplied the outline 
of such a plan when it assumed control of 
the 18th Army in March. General Adachi 
was instructed to hold firmly at Wewak, 
Aitape, and Hollandia; to institute a de- 
laying action westward from Madang and 
Wewak; to use and co-operate with the 4th 
Air Army during this withdrawal; and 
gradually to consolidate the bulk of the 18th 
Army at Hollandia. General Adachi was to 



M Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 22-23, 26-27. 

CT 18th Army Opn Order, no number, 22 Jan 44, 
as translated in Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 39, 3 
May 44, copy in G— 2 DofA files. 

"Ibid.; 18th Army Opns, II, 141-46. 



start withdrawing all his forces west from 
Madang and Hansa Bay beyond the Sepik 
River immediately, and these forces were 
to be concentrated at Wewak as quickly as 
possible. Finally, a cadre of one division was 
immediately to be sent to Hollandia. 89 

General Adachi received his new orders 
on 25 March, but his reaction was not 
exactly that probably expected by the 2d 
Area Army. The 8th Area Army had 
planned to continue operations east of We- 
wak, to make Madang the front line, and to 
build up strength to counterattack Allied 
forces. 10 Possibly General Adachi, upon his 
transfer to the 2d Area Army, may have had 
some mistaken loyalty to his former com- 
mander and a feeling that the 8th Area 
Army plan was the better, although he fi- 
nally recognized that the latter plan would 
be practically impossible of execution. At 
any rate, General Adachi's interpretation of 
the 2d Area Army's definitively worded 
order was rather strange. He ordered the 
41st Division to hold the Madang area by 
rear guard action until the end of April, but 
at the same time the bulk of the division was 
to be sent westward 100 miles along the coast 
to Hansa Bay. The 20th Division was to 
move initially to Hansa Bay. Upon its relief 
there by the 41st Division, the 20th was to 
proceed to But, some thirty-five miles west of 
Wewak, and, ultimately, to Aitape. The 51st 
Division was ordered to move from Hansa 
Bay to Wewak and, beginning in late July or 
early August, was to push on toward Hol- 
landia. Instead of sending one division to 
Hollandia immediately and getting the rest 
of the 18th Army started on its way to that 
area as ordered by the 2d Area Army, Gen- 

™2d Area Army Opn Order No. A-46, 20 Mar 
44, as translated in Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 
5 Jul 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; 18th Army Opns, 
III, 17-20; Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 30-46. 

40 18th Army Opns, III, 4-8. 



98 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



eral Adachi decided to concentrate all his 
forces at Wewak. One concession to the let- 
ter and spirit of the 2d Area Army's order 
was made: ". . . and, if conditions permit, 
strengthen the Hollandia sector also." 41 

The Japanese apparently expected the 
Allies to launch a large-scale amphibious 
attack along the north coast of Australian 
New Guinea about the end of April. How- 
ever, the enemy placed Hansa Bay and 
Wewak, in that order, ahead of Hollandia 
as probable targets for the expected assault. 
General Adachi apparently believed that the 
Allies were going to move on Hansa Bay 
and therefore evidently considered that he 
had ample time in which to reinforce Hol- 
landia ( although he did betray some slight 
concern about the Aitape area) but little 
time to strengthen Hansa Bay. His pro- 
pensity for devoting most of his attention 
to Hansa Bay may also have resulted from 
some wishful thinking. While he had no 
great fear of Allied forces then patrolling 
in the area south and east of Madang, he 
did have some trouble disengaging his units 
from that region. Moreover, the 18th Army 
had considerable difficulty crossing the 
broad swamps and wide washes at the mouth 
of the Sepik River, between Hansa Bay and 
Wewak. It would have been much simpler 
to hold at Hansa Bay. 42 

The 2d Area Army was not satisfied with 
the progress of the 18th Army's westward 
movement. Therefore, on 1 2 April, General 
Anami sent his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. 
Takazo Numata, to Wewak. Perhaps co- 
incidentally with General Numata's arrival 
at Wewak, the 80th Infantry of the 20th 



11 18th Army Opns, III, pp. 4-8, 9-11; 18th 
Army Opn Order, no number, 25 Mar 44, as trans- 
lated in Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 
44, copy in G-2 DofA files. The quotation is from 
the 18th Army's translated order. 

" 18th Army Opns, III, 17-28, 39-40. 



Division was ordered to prepare for move- 
ment to Aitape. The displacement of the 
80th Infantry apparently started soon there- 
after, but few men of that regiment had 
reached Aitape by 22 April. General Nu- 
mata flew back to his headquarters on 13 
April, after he had instructed General 
Adachi to start troops moving to Hollandia 
as well as Aitape. On 18 April the 66th In- 
fantry of the 51st Division was ordered to 
strike out from Wewak for Hollandia, where 
the regiment was expected to arrive about 
mid- June. The 66th Infantry had not 
started its movement when for obvious rea- 
sons General Adachi, on 22 April, revoked 
the regiment's marching orders. 43 

There is no evidence that the Japanese 
had any prepared defense plans for Hol- 
landia. It could hardly have been otherwise. 
If General Adachi had entertained misgiv- 
ings about the command situation at Hol- 
landia in January, by 22 April he may well 
have been experiencing sleepless nights over 
it. The Headquarters, 4th Air Army, previ- 
ously senior headquarters at Hollandia, had 
left that base for Manado on 15 April. The 
Commanding General, 6th Air Division, 
had arrived at Hollandia from Wewak dur- 
ing late March, but he and other members 
of that unhappy air unit's staff had been re- 
lieved in disgrace after the loss of his planes. 
His place was taken by Maj. Gen. Masa- 
zumi Inada, who had been sent to Hollandia 
from his western New Guinea logistic sup- 
port command, the 2d Field Base Unit, by 
the 2d Area Army in mid -April. Admiral 
Endo, 9th Fleet, commander and senior 
naval officer at Hollandia, had arrived from 



"18th Army Opns, III, 17-20, 28-32, 40-41; 
Hist of 2d Area Army, pp, 45-46; 20th Div Opn 
Order, no number, 12 Apr 44, as translated ia 
Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 49, 12 Jul 44, copy in 
G-2 DofA files; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 38, 26 
Apr 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLAND IA 



99 



Wewak only late in March. Finally, the sen- 
ior officer of all services at Hollandia was 
Maj. Gen. Toyozo Kitazono, who had 
reached Hollandia from Wewak (where he 
had commanded the 3d Field Transporta- 
tion Unit) only ten days before the Allied 
landings. General Kitazono had no time to 
develop a comprehensive defense plan for 
Hollandia, let alone co-ordinate such a plan 
with General Inada and Admiral Endo. 44 
In fact, there can be some doubt that Gen- 
eral Kitazono was in a hurry about develop- 
ing the needed defenses. He had served long 
and well with the 18th Army and probably 
brought with him to Hollandia at least some 
of General Adachi's belief that either Hansa 
Bay or Wewak would be the site of the next 
major Allied invasion. 

Japanese Reactions to Hollandia 

What happened to General Kitazono is 
uncertain, but somehow he escaped the 
Hollandia area to survive the war. What- 
ever was General Kitazono's situation, the 
2d Area Army, on 22 April, ordered General 
Inada of the 6th Air Division to assume 
command at Hollandia. At 0930 that morn- 
ing General Inada issued a grandiose plan 
of resistance. Japanese troops in the area 
were ordered to take up positions near the 
town of Hollandia and also to ". . . destroy 
the enemy expected from Tanahmerah 
Bay." Most of the troops that he was able 
to organize General Inada finally concen- 
trated near Sabron on the Depapre-Lake 
Sentani road. There the 24th Infantry Di- 
vision, advancing inland from Tanahmerah 
Bay, found the only significant organized 
resistance encountered during the Hollandia 
operation. 



"18th Army Opns, III, 41-46, 48-54; Hist of 
2d Area Army, pp. 30-44, 48-51. 



But, despite General Inada's best efforts 
to bring order out of the chaos created by the 
surprise invasion, most of the Japanese 
troops in the Hollandia area fled ignomini- 
ously into the hills as the first shots were fired 
from Allied naval guns. Late in the after- 
noon of 22 April, General Inada, apparently 
a realist, practically gave up the fight. Faced 
with the rapid disintegration of his organi- 
zations, at least 90 percent of which were 
service units, he issued a new order which 
expressed a defeatist sentiment usually for- 
eign to Japaneses thought: "The division 
[6th Air Division] will be on guard against 
enemy landings and will attempt to with- 
draw at night." 45 

West of Hollandia the 2d Area Army at- 
tempted to take action to counter the Allied 
invasion. General Anami, feeling that Hol- 
landia was too important a base to be meekly 
abandoned, wanted to dispatch eastward 
and overland the bulk of the 36th Division 
from the Wakde-Sarmi area. Acting on 
instructions from the 2d Area Army, the 
2d Army ordered two battalions of the 
224th Infantry and a battalion of the 
36th Division's field artillery to start toward 
Hollandia on 24 April. It was expected that 
the rest of the division could start moving 
eastward from Sarmi about 10 May. 

The Southern Army, however, would not 
permit the Sarmi area to be denuded of 
troops and on 25 April vetoed the plan to 
send 36th Division units eastward. General 
Anami stubbornly argued the necessity for 
the recapture of Hollandia and further 
recommended that a large-scale amphibious 
operation for its reoccupation be mounted 
in western New Guinea in mid-June. The 

"Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 48-51 ; 18th Army 
Opns, III, 48-54; 6th Air Div Opn Orders 45 and 
46, 22 Apr 44, as translated in 24th Div Opns Rpt 
Hollandia, pp. 146-47. The quotations are from the 
translated operation orders. 



100 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Southern Army was adamant and took pains 
to point out to General Anami that it would 
be- impossible, because of lack of shipping 
and air support, to stage a large amphibious 
task force within the foreseeable future. 
Finally, on 30 April, the Southern Army 
canceled further preparations for a push to 
Hollandia by the 36th Division. 

The best General Anami was able to 
obtain from his discussions with the South- 
ern Army (and representatives had been 
flown to the senior headquarters to plead the 
2d Area Army's case) was tacit approval to 
continue the movement toward Hollandia 
of such 36th Division elements as had al- 
ready been dispatched eastward from 
Sarmi. These units, both infantry and artil- 
lery, had been placed under the control of 
Col. Soemon Matsuyama, commander of 
the 224th Infantry, and had been desig- 
nated the Matsuyama Force. The last ele- 
ments of the Matsuyama Force cleared the 
Sarmi area on 4 May. The point of the col- 
umn had advanced to Armopa, about half 
way between Sarmi and Hollandia, when, 
on 1 7 May, the Allies made a new landing 
near Sarmi. The 36th Division immediately 
ordered the Matsuyama Force to retrace its 
steps. Thus ended Japanese efforts to re- 
capture Hollandia from the west. 48 

Except for the one lucky bomb hit on sup- 
plies at Humboldt Bay, Japanese air reac- 
tion to the seizure of Hollandia was prac- 
tically nonexistent, although on 22 April the 
4th Air Army was ordered to concentrate 
all its aircraft on western New Guinea fields 



" Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 51-53 J Hist of South- 
ern Area Army, pp. 61-64; 224th Inf Opn Orders, 
no numbers, 24 Apr and 1 7 May 44, as translated in 
Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 44, copy in 
G-2 DofA files; Kawakami Comments. More mate- 
rial on Matsuyama Force operations is set forth be- 
low in the chapters concerning action in the Wakde- 
Sarmi area. 



to prepare for strong attacks against the 
Allied shipping and ground forces at Hol- 
landia. The project was unsuccessful. The 
4th Air Army did not have the necessary 
planes to stage major attacks; Allied naval 
aircraft intercepted most of the planes the 
Japanese were able to send toward Hollan- 
dia; Allied air action prevented the Japa- 
nese from keeping their western New Guinea 
fields operational; and by the time the 
American carriers had to leave the area, 
land-based air support was available to the 
Allies either at or within range of Hollandia. 

Japanese naval reaction by air, sea, or 
subsurface means was equally insignificant. 
On 2 1 April, having learned of the depar- 
ture of a large Allied convoy from the Ad- 
miralties, the Combined Fleet issued orders 
to the Central Pacific Fleet to attack the 
convoy with all available submarines. But 
difficulties arose in getting the submarines 
assembled for a concerted attack and, ex- 
cept for a few sightings off Hollandia, the 
subsurface vessels stayed away from the 
area. The Combined Fleet was itself pre- 
paring for a naval showdown in the Pacific, 
but this battle was not scheduled until mid- 
summer. The Hollandia operation caught 
the Combined Fleet by surprise and com- 
pletely unprepared for battle. The Japanese 
Navy quickly decided that it was powerless 
to undertake any action against Allied forces 
at Hollandia. 17 

Japanese Withdrawal from Hollandia 

At Hollandia, General Inada decided to 
assemble his forces at Genjem, a village 
about fifteen miles west of Lake Sentani. 
Near Genjem, situated on the main east- 
west inland trail of the Hollandia area, the 



" Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 48-51 ; Naval Opns 
in Western New Guinea Area, pp. 4—7 ; Kawakami 
Comments. 



THE JAPANESE: PEARL HARBOR THROUGH HOLLANDER 



Japanese had started some agricultural proj- 
ects. By reason of its location and agriculture 
the Genjem area was the logical place for 
gathering forces that were retreating before 
the Allied advance. Most of the Japanese 
supplies at Hollandia had been stored 
around the shores of Humboldt Bay. With 
these lost, the Japanese could muster less 
than a week's supply of rations from inland 
stockpiles, but they might augment these 
rations from the projects at Genjem. The 
next phase of General Inada's withdrawal 
plan was an overland trek of 1 25 miles to the 
Wakde-Sarmi area. From Genjem one trail 
led west toward Sarmi, and another trail 
ran north 16 miles to Demta, a bay village 
located on the east-west coastal trail. 

By 30 April some 7,000 Japanese troops 
had assembled in the vicinity of Genjem. 
Here they were reorganized, without maps 
and already short of rations and medical 
supplies, into nine or ten echelons for the 
long march westward through inhospitable 
country. The first echelon, consisting of 
stranded pilots and ground crews as well as 
the headquarters of the defunct 6th Air Di- 
vision, left the Genjem area by 9 May. 48 

The Japanese troops who struck out from 
Genjem after 1 May either had to push 
overland through mainly untracked wilder- 
ness (the inland trail lost its identity not far 
west of Genjem and deteriorated into many 
unmapped and dead-end jungle tracks) or 
risk encounter with a series of Allied out- 
posts. Companies I and K of the 19th In- 
fantry, 24th Division, had set up road blocks 
at Genjem and Demta during the first week 
of May. Company K sent numerous patrols 
over all trails in the vicinity of Genjem and 
combed neighboring native hamlets for 
Japanese stragglers. Company I patrolled 

48 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46; Hist of 2d Area 
Army, pp. 51-53. 



101 

south from Demta and along coastal trails 
leading both east and west of that village. 
By 6 June the two companies had killed 405 
Japanese and had taken 64 prisoners in the 
Genjem-Demta region. Many more Japa- 
nese were found dead of starvation or disease 
along the trails in the same area. J " 

The hardships suffered by those Japanese 
killed in the Genjem-Demta sector were 
probably fewer than those of the troops who 
sought to make the trek to Sarmi. Remnants 
of the first group, which had left Genjem 
on 26 April, approached Sarmi just in time 
for the Allied invasion of that area on 1 7 
May; the rest had to attempt to bypass 
Sarmi too. For the most part, the Japanese 
retreating through Genjem toward Sarmi 
died slowly from starvation, wounds, and 
disease. Of those who left the Hollandia area 
via Genjem, the Japanese themselves esti- 
mated that only 7 percent survived to reach 
the Sarmi area. 50 

Excluding prisoners, there could have 
been very few survivors of the Japanese 
Hollandia garrison. The following appear 
to be reasonable figures concerning opera- 
tions at Hollandia from 22 April to 6 June 
1944: 

Japanese postwar estimate of the 
number of men gathered at Genjem 
for the overland trek to Sarmi 7, 220 

Allied estimate of Japanese killed or 
found dead by Allied forces in the 
Hollandia area to 6 June 3, 332 

Number of Japanese captured in the 
Hollandia area by Allied forces to 6 
June 611 

Total number of Japanese troops ac- 
counted for by Allied and Japanese 
sources as of 6 June 11, 163 

a 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 98-1 1 0. 
18th Army Opns, III, 41-46, 48-54. General 
Inada survived the trek to Sarmi and before the 
end of the war held important posts in the Philip- 
pines and the home islands. Admiral Endo was 
killed in the Hollandia area on or about 3 May. 



102 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Allowing for errors in the first two figures 
but also taking into account the number of 
Japanese killed or captured in the Hollandia 
area after 6 June and those of the Hollandia 
garrison later killed or captured during oper- 
ations farther west, the losses of the original 
Japanese garrison at Hollandia remain at a 
staggering figure. Assuming that the Japa- 
nese estimate of 93 percent casualties for the 
troops who attempted the march to Sarmi 
is reasonably accurate, then it appears that, 
including prisoners, less than 1,000 of the 
approximately 1 1 ,000 Japanese who were 



stationed at Hollandia on 22 April 1944 
could have survived the war. 51 

"As of 27 September 1944, the last date for 
which comprehensive figures are available, Alamo 
Force estimated that 4,478 Japanese had been killed 
or found dead in the Hollandia area. This is an in- 
crease of only 1,146 over the 6 June figure, a fact 
which lends credence to the Japanese estimate that 
some 7,000 troops tried the march to Sarmi. Of this 
number, not more than 500 could have reached the 
Sarmi area, indicating that 6,000, more or less, must 
have died from starvation or disease during the trek 
westward. As of 27 September, Alamo Force ac- 
counted for 656 Japanese prisoners and 13 Formosan 
prisoners from the Hollandia garrison. These 27 
September figures are from Alamo Force G-2 Wkly 
Rpt 60, 27 Sep 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. 



CHAPTER V 



Prelude to the Battle 
of the Driniumor 



While operations at Hollandia were rap- 
idly drawing to a successful conclusion, 
another action was just beginning at Aitape, 
125 miles to the southeast. The Persecu- 
tion Task Force, with the 163d Regimental 
Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division 
as its combat nucleus, landed near Aitape 
on 22 April, D Day for Hollandia as well. 
The principal objective of General Doe's 
Persecution Task Force was the seizure 
and rehabilitation of the Japanese-con- 
structed Tadji airstrips, eight miles east- 
southeast of Aitape. These fields were to 
provide bases from which Allied aircraft 
could support ground operations at Hol- 
landia after the Fifth Fleet's carriers left the 
latter area. General Doe's command was 
also to provide ground flank protection for 
Hollandia by preventing westward advance 
of the Japanese 18th Army, assembling some 
ninety miles southeast of Aitape at Wewak. 1 
{Map3)\ 

Securing the Airfield Area 
The Tactical Plan 

Knowledge of beach conditions in the 
Aitape area was obtained principally from 

1 The decision to seize Aitape and the organiza- 
tio n of the Per secution Task Force are described 
in IChapter II J above. 



aerial photographs, and the Persecution 
Task Force landing beach was chosen with 
reference to beach exits and shore objectives 
as they appeared on these pictures. The 
shore line opposite the Tadji airfields, which 
lay only 1,000 yards inland, was uniform 
and sandy for long distances. There were 
clear approaches to the beach, which had 
a medium rise. The selected landing point 
was located at Korako, a native village on 
the coast at the northeast corner of the air- 
field area. From this point, which was desig- 
nated Blue Beach, a track passable for 
wheeled vehicles ran directly inland to the 
Tadji strips. 2 

The Persecution Task Force was to be- 
gin landing at 0645, high tide time in the 
Aitape area. In charge of the amphibious 
phases of the operation was Capt. Albert G. 
Noble (USN), whose command, the East- 
ern Attack Group (Task Group 77.3), was 
part of Admiral Barbey's Task Force 77. 
Close air support operations at Aitape were 
primarily the responsibility of planes aboard 
eight CVE's and were similar to the air sup- 
port activities carried out by Task Force 58 
at Hollandia. Initially, last-minute beach 
strafing at Blue Beach was planned to con- 

! CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt 
Bay-Aitape, p. 29; CTG 77.3 [Eastern Attack 
Group] Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1—2. 



104 THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 

Chart 7 — The Persecution Task Force: 22 April-^1 May 1944 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
Brig. Gen. Jens A. Doe 



163d RCT 
Brig. Gen. Jens A. Doe 



tinue until the leading wave of landing craft 
was within 300 yards of the shore. But Gen- 
eral Doe believed that such close-in strafing 
would endanger the troops aboard the land- 
ing craft. It was therefore decided that 
strafing would begin when the leading boat 
wave was 4,500 yards from shore (expected 
to be at H minus 15 minutes) and would 
end when that wave approached to within 
1,200 yards of the shore, timed for about 
H minus 4 minutes. 3 

The Allied Air Forces also had important 
air support missions at Aitape. A squadron 
of attack bombers (A-20's or B— 25's) was 
to be in the air over the landing area from 
0830 to 1030 on D Day. After 1030, if no 



3 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44, and Change 
1, 10 Apr 44, thereto, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
4-5 Apr 44; CTF 78 Opn Plan D2-44, 12 Apr 44, 
in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Apr 44. The CVE's operated 
as TF 78, which was under the command of Admiral 
Davison. Although Admiral Davison was the senior 
officer present, Captain Noble retained command in 
the area during the amphibious phases. This was 
accomplished by personal agreement between the 
two officers. Tel conv, author with Vice Adm Al- 
bert G. Noble, 3 Jan 51. 



127th RCT 
Col. Merle H. Howe 



earlier calls for bombardment had been 
made, these planes were to drop their bombs 
on targets on both flanks of Blue Beach. 
Two squadrons of attack bombers were to 
be maintained on daily alert at a field in 
eastern New Guinea for as long as the situ- 
ation at Aitape required, and additional air 
support at Aitape would be provided upon 
request from Alamo Force. 4 

Naval fire support for the landings on 
Blue Beach was to be executed by 5 de- 
stroyers, 9 APD's, and 1 AK. This was the 
first time that APD's or AK's had been as- 
signed fire support missions in the South- 
west Pacific. Targets for the destroyers were 
similar to those assigned naval fire support 
vessels at Tanahmerah and Humboldt Bays. 
Six APD's were to fire on St. Anna and 
Tadji Plantation (west of the airstrips), on 
enemy defensive installations at or near 
Aitape town, and on the offshore islands — 
Tumleo, Ali, and Seleo. The AK was to 
aim its 5-inch fire at Tumleo and Ali Is- 



4 AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 
GHQ Jnl, 28 Mar 44. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



105 



lands. Close-in support was to be provided 
for the leading landing waves from 0642 to 
0645 by rocket and automatic weapons fire 
from two submarine chasers. All destroyers, 
submarine chasers, and the AK were to de- 
liver fire upon call from forces ashore after 
H Hour. 5 

At 0645 the 2d and 3d Battalions, 163d 
Infantry, were to land abreast on Blue 
Beach. As soon as a beachhead had been 
secured the 1st Battalion was to land and, 
aided by the 2d, was to initiate a drive 
toward the Tadji strips. After the airfields 
had been captured, the 2d Battalion was to 
defend the task force's western flank, the 
1st was to establish defenses along the south- 
ern edge of the airfield area, and the 3d was 
to defend the eastern flank. On D plus 1 the 
1 27th Regimental Combat Team, 32d Divi- 
sion, was to reach Blue Beach. Then patrols 
west and east of the beachhead were to begin 
seeking out Japanese forces, and, as soon as 
possible, Aitape town was to be captured. 

Field and antiaircraft artillery going 
ashore on D Day were to protect and sup- 
port the infantry's operations and the engi- 
neers who were to start work on the airfields 
immediately after they were secured. Engi- 
neers and other service troops not assigned 
to airfield construction tasks were to unload 
ships, improve roads and tracks, build or 
repair bridges over streams in the beachhead 
area, and find and clear dump and bivouac 
sites. 8 

The Capture of the Airfields 

At 0500 on 22 April, after an uneventful 
trip from the Admiralties, the Eastern At- 
tack Group convoy arrived in the transport 

c OTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44; GTG 77.3 
Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3. 

* PTF FO 1, 6 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hol- 
landia, 5—6 Apr 44. 



area off Blue Beach. 7 The assault troops of 
the 163d Infantry, Col. Francis W. Mason 
commanding, immediately began debarking 
into LCPR's from the APD's which had 
brought them to Aitape. Naval gunfire and 
aerial support was carried out almost exactly 
as planned, and the first wave of LCPR's 
hit the shore on schedule at 0645. It would 
have been a model landing except for one 
thing — it didn't take place on Blue Beach. 

D Day had dawned dull and overcast, 
making for poor visibility in the landing 
area. Heavy smoke from fires set in Japanese 
supply dumps by preassault bombardments 
further obscured the coast line. With no 
landmarks to guide them, the coxswains of 
the leading boat wave missed Blue Beach 
and the landing took place at Wapil, a small 
coastal village about 1,200 yards east of 
Korako. The accident proved a happy one, 
for it was soon discovered that the Wapil 
area was much better suited to beaching 
LST's and large landing craft than any 
other in the Aitape region. 

For the assault troops the change in 
beaches created little difficulty, since the 
Wapil area had been adequately covered by 
support fires and there was no opposition 
from the Japanese. Tactical surprise was as 
complete as that achieved the same day by 
the Reckless Task Force at Hollandia. 
Leaving breakfasts cooking and bunks un- 
made, the Japanese at Aitape had fled in 
panic when the naval support fire began. 

The 2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, had 
landed on the right, or west. The unit im- 
mediately swung-"west along the beach to 

1 Information in this subsection is based on : CTG 
77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 4-5; CTF 77 Opns Rpt 
Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 31; 
163d Inf Jnl, Aitape; 163d Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 
p. 2; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns 
Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 2-3; Ltr, Gen 
Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, no sub, in OCMH files. 




MAP 3 

AITAPE LANDINGS, 22 April 1944 



108 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



find Korako and the trail leading inland to 
the Tadji strips. This task was accomplished 
by 0800 and the two battalions quickly ex- 
panded the beachhead to a depth of 500 
yards and westward about 2,500 yards from 
Wapil to Waitanan Creek. This area, occu- 
pied by 1 000, marked the limits of the task 
force's first phase line. So far, opposition 
had consisted of only a few rifle shots. Three 
Japanese prisoners had been captured and 
over fifty Javanese laborers had willingly 
given themselves up. The two assault units 
now waited for the landing of the 1st Bat- 
talion and for an order from General Doe 
to move on the Tadji strips. 

The 1st Battalion was assembled ashore 
by 1030 and, passing through the 3d, started 
moving inland toward Tadji Bomber Strip 
at 1100. Simultaneously, the 2d Battalion 
began advancing on Tadji Fighter Strip, 
north of the bomber field. The 3d Battalion 
remained at the beach area. 

The advance inland was slow and cau- 
tious but by 1245 the 2d Battalion had 
cleared its objective and the 1st soon secured 
Tadji Bomber Strip against no opposition. 
The 2d Battalion then moved across Wai- 
tanan Creek to Pro and Pro Mission, which 
were found clear of Japanese. The battalion 
command post was set up at Pro before dark, 
while the rest of the unit bivouacked along 
trails leading inland to the fighter strip. The 
1st Battalion setded down for the night at 
the west end of the bomber field. During the 
afternoon the 3d Battalion sent patrols east 
from Wapil to the coastal villages of Nor, 
Rilia, and Lemieng, noting no enemy activ- 
ity. Three miles east of Wapil, at the mouth 
of the Nigia River, an outpost was set up. 
The bulk of the battalion bivouacked along 
the eastern edges of the two captured strips. 

By dark on D Day-the principal objec- 
tives of the Persecution Task Force had 
been secured. Work could be started on the 



airfields, needed to insure land-based air 
support for both the Aitape and Hollandia 
beachheads. The strips had been secured at 
an amazingly low cost — two men of the 
163d Infantry had been killed and thirteen 
wounded. 

Airfield Construction and 
Supporting Arms 

No. 62 Works Wing, Royal Australian 
Air Force, had come ashore at Blue Beach 
during the morning and had been able to 
start work on Tadji Fighter Strip at 1300. 
Repairs continued throughout the night 
under floodlights, the lack of Japanese op- 
position and the urgency of the task prompt- 
ing General Doe to push the work. Although 
it had been hoped that the strip would be 
ready for use on D plus 1 , terrain conditions 
were such that necessary repairs were not 
completed on schedule. Thus it was 0900 on 
24 April before the Australian engineers, 
who had worked without break for almost 
forty-eight hours, could announce that the 
airstrip was ready. At 1630 twenty-five 
P^lO's of No. 78 Wing, Royal Australian 
Air Force, landed on the field, and the bal- 
ance of the wing arrived the next day. 8 

The ground on which the fighter strip 
was located was so poorly drained that it 
was not until 28 April, after steel matting 
had been placed on the field, that it could 
be used continuously. 3 The works wing then 

* Ltr, F/Lt Arthur L. Davies [RAAF], Officer-in- 
Charge, War Hist Sec, Hq RAAF, to author, 8 Mar 
48, in OCMH files. 

9 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 5; 
PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, p. 2, copy in files of OCE 
GHQ AFPAC. The strip was 4,000 by 100 feet. It 
was used until 12 July, when it was declared un- 
serviceable and converted to an emergency field. 
Proper drainage could not be obtained at the site, 
but the strip had well served its intended purpose — 
quick provision of land-based air support for Hol- 
landia and Aitape. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



109 




TROOPS UNLOADING SUPPLIES AT AIT APE. In the background are the 
two AK's. 



moved to Tadji Bomber Strip to aid the 
8 7 2d and 875th Engineer Aviation Bat- 
talions. The latter two units passed to the 
operational control of Wing Commander 
William A. C. Dale (RAAF), who, besides 
commanding the works wing, was Perse- 
cution Task Force Engineer. Extensive re- 
pairs were necessary at the bomber strip and 
that field was not ready for use by fighter 
and transport planes until 27 May and for 
bombers until early July. 10 

Other engineer units ashore on D Day 
directed their energies to ship unloading, 
road and bridge construction, and dump 

10 Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 
50; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. VI, pp. 2-3; Ltr, F/Lt 
Davies to author, 8 Mar 48. 



and bivouac clearance. By 1930 the 593d 
Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (the 
Shore Party) and the Naval Beach Party 
had unloaded all D-Day LST's. The next 
day one AKA and seven more LST's were 
discharged. Unloading of the two AK's did 
not proceed as rapidly as expected, for 
neither ship had been properly combat 
loaded. The AK which arrived on D Day 
was only 65 percent discharged when, dur- 
ing the night of 27-28 April, it was hit by 
a bomb dropped from a lone Japanese plane 
flying in from an unknown base in western 
New Guinea. The other AK, undamaged, 
towed the first back to Finschhafen, return- 
ing then to Blue Beach to complete its own 
unloading. No other untoward incident 



110 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



marred the debarkation of troops and 
supplies. 11 

American engineers constructed roads 
inland from Blue Beach to the airstrips and 
improved the coastal roads. Light Japanese 
culverts and bridges in the area had col- 
lapsed under the weight of American and 
Australian heavy equipment or had been 
damaged by preassault bombardment, mak- 
ing repairs a pressing problem. Australian 
engineers bridged Waitanan Creek while 
American engineers threw a bridge across 
the Nigia River, on the east flank. Pending 
completion of other bridges, American engi- 
neers maintained ferry services across the 
main streams. On 2 May heavy rains flooded 
all streams in the area, wiping out much 
bridge construction already accomplished, 
damaging ferry stages, and making neces- 
sary extensive repairs or new construction. 
Continued rain during May made road 
maintenance so difficult that engineers 
working on airstrips or bridges had to devote 
much time to the roads. 12 

Artillery moved ashore on D Day with- 
out difficulty. The 167th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, supporting the 163d Infantry, was in 
position and registered on check points by 
H plus 4 hours but fired no support mission 
while in the Aitape area. On D plus 1 the 
190th Field Artillery Group assumed com- 
mand of all field artillery, and on the same 
day the 126th Field Artillery Battalion of 



11 CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 7; PTF Opns 
Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 3. The loss of the 
AK Etamin was grim justification of Admiral Bar- 
bey's reluctance to send A K's forw ard in early con- 
voys to a combat area. See Ch. 1 1 J above. According 
to Admiral Noble, the loss of the Etamin was " . . 
very keenly felt for several months to come." Ltr, 
Rear Adm Noble to Gen Ward, 18 Dec 50, in 
OCMH files. 

12 Alamo Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 
50; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 
2-6 ; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, pp. 2-3. 



the 32d Division arrived. Antiairciaft artil- 
lery came ashore rapidly on D Day and set 
up positions along Blue Beach and around 
Tadji Fighter Strip." 

Securing the Flanks 

While engineers continued work through 
the night of 22-23 April, other elements of 
the task force made preparations to expand 
the perimeter. 14 \{Map III\ About 0800 on 
the 23d, the 1st Battalion, 163d Infantry, 
started westward over inland trails to the 
Raihu River, six miles beyond Blue Beach. 
A tank of the 603d Tank Company, which 
was supporting the advance, broke through 
a Japanese bridge over Waitanan Creek, but 
the infantry continued westward and within 
an hour had secured incomplete Tadji West 
Strip. The 2d Battalion pushed west along 
the coastal track and by noon reached the 
mouth of the Raihu. Both battalions bivou- 
acked for the night on the east bank, the 1st 
at a point about 4,000 yards upstream. Dur- 
ing the day the 3d Battalion (which had 
been relieved on the east flank and at Blue 
Beach by elements of the 127th Infantry) 
moved forward with regimental headquar- 
ters to Tadji Plantation, 1,200 yards east 
of the Raihu and about 2,000 yards inland. 
So light had Japanese opposition been that 
the 163d Infantry had suffered but two cas- 
ualties — one man wounded and another 
missing. 

The next day the 1st and 2d Battalions 
resumed the advance at 0730. The 1st 
crossed the Raihu and pushed northwest 
over ill-defined tracks to establish contact, 



"PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; 1 6 7th FA 
Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 3-6. 

14 Information on west flank operations is from : 
163d Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3; PTF Opns Rpt 
Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 3-6; I63d Inf Jnl 
Aitape ; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



111 



about 0930, with the 2d Battalion at the 
mouth of a small creek 1 ,800 yards west of 
the Raihu. Colonel Mason now halted the 
1st Battalion and ordered it to patrol the 
trails radiating south and west from its new 
position. The 2d Battalion moved on along 
the coast to Aitape, securing that town and 
the near-by dominating height at Rohm 
Point by 1 100. The unit had met no Japa- 
nese and was preparing to push on when, 
early in the afternoon, Colonel Mason or- 
dered it to stop. The 3d Battalion was ready 
to pass through the 1st and move forward 
over inland trails, but the regimental com- 
mander suddenly ordered both it and the 
1st to retire to the east bank of the Raihu 
for the night. It is not clear why this with- 
drawal was ordered. Japanese opposition 
had been almost nonexistent and the 163d 
Infantry had lost only one man killed dur- 
ing the day. 

General Doe was by now dissatisfied with 
the pace of the westward advance, and he 
therefore suggested to Alamo Force that 
the 163d's commander be relieved. This 
step was approved by General Krueger, 
although the regimental commander re- 
mained in control of his unit until 9 May, 
only two days before the 163d Infantry be- 
gan loading for another operation. 15 

For the next few days there were no major 
changes in the dispositions of the 163d In- 
fantry as patrolling inland and along the 
coast west of Aitape continued. Patrol bases 
were set up at inland and coastal villages 
to hunt down Japanese attempting to escape 
westward from the Aitape area. At the 
Kapoam villages, about twelve miles up the 

11 The circumstances surrounding this relief are 
found in : Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-72, 24 Apr 44, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; Rad, 
Alamo to RTF [I Corps], WF-4652, 29 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Ltr, Gen 
Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, in OCMH files. 



Raihu, elements of the 3d Battalion en- 
countered the only signs of organized Japa- 
nese resistance found in the Aitape area to 
4 May. At one of these villages — Kamti — 
outpost troops of the 3d Battalion were sur- 
rounded by an estimated 200 Japanese who 
made a number of harassing attacks on 28 
and 29 April. These skirmishes cost the bat- 
talion 3 men killed and 2 wounded, while 
it was estimated that the Japanese lost about 
90 killed. On 30 April the men at Kamti 
withdrew while Battery A, 126th Field 
Artillery Battalion, fired 240 rounds of 105- 
mm. ammunition into the village and its 
environs. The next morning Company L, 
163d Infantry, moved back to Kamti against 
no opposition. There were few further con- 
tacts with the Japanese on the west flank 
and all outposts of the 163d Infantry were 
relieved by 3 2d Division troops early in 
May. 

The 127th Regimental Combat Team 
(less the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, and 
Companies F and G of the same regiment) 
had unloaded at Blue Beach on 23 April. 10 
About 0700 the same morning, after an air 
and naval bombardment, Companies F and 
G landed on Tumleo and Seleo Islands off 
Blue Beach, securing them against minor 
opposition by 1400. On 25 April Company 
G occupied the third large offshore island, 
Ali, without difficulty. The 1st Battalion, 
127th Infantry, arrived at Blue Beach on 
26 April and established its headquarters 
near Korako. The 2d Battalion relieved the 
3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, on the east 
flank, and the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, 
established a defense line along the southern 
and eastern edges of Tadji Bomber and 
Fighter Strips. 

18 Information on 127th Infantry activities is 
based on: 127th Inf Jnl, 23 Apr-4 May 44; PTF 
G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 
22 Apr-^ May 44, pp. 3-6. 



112 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Patrols of the 2d Battalion moved east 
along the coastal track to the mouth of the 
Driniumor, about twelve miles beyond 
Blue Beach ; up the banks of the Nigia River 
five miles to Chinapelli; and up the west 
bank of the Driniumor about six miles to 
Afua. From Afua a trail was found running 
westward through dense jungle to China- 
pelli by way of a village called Palauru. 
From Chinapelli one track ran north to the 
mouth of the Nigia and others wandered 
off in a westerly direction toward the 
Kapoam villages. From the Driniumor two 
main trails were found leading eastward — 
one the principal coastal track to Wewak 
and the other a rough inland trace originat- 
ing at Afua. 

The latter trail paralleled the coast line 
and ran along the foothills of the Torricelli 
Mountains. North of the trail was a flat 
coastal plain, generally forested with dense 
jungle growth and containing numerous 
swampy areas and a multitude of small and 
large streams. The plain narrowed gradually 
from a depth of about ten miles at the Nigia 
River to less than a mile at the Danmap 
River, flowing into the Pacific about forty- 
five miles east-southeast of Aitape. Beyond 
the Danmap, toward Wewak, was more 
rolling terrain where hills descended from 
the Torricelli Mountains down to the sea. 
The trail east from Afua crossed the many 
streams between the Driniumor and the 
Danmap at points three to five miles south 
of the coast. 

It was essential to the security of the 
newly won Tadji strips that any Japanese 
movements westward from Wewak along 
both inland and coastal trails be discovered 
and watched. Therefore, it was decided to 
send Company C, 127th Infantry, rein- 
forced by part of Company D, by boat to 
Nyaparake, a coastal village about seventeen 



miles east of the Nigia River. There the re- 
inforced company, known as the Nyaparake 
Force, was to set up a patrol base and re- 
port and delay Japanese movements in the 
vicinity. 

On 28 April the unit boarded small boats 
at Blue Beach and sailed eastward along the 
coast, missing its objective and landing near 
the mouth of the Dandriwad River, about 
eight miles east of Nyaparake. This error 
was quickly discovered but the force re- 
mained at its position for three days, sending 
out patrols in all directions. Few signs of 
enemy activity were observed, and the five 
Japanese killed in the area appeared to be 
stragglers rather than representatives of any 
organized unit of the 18th Army. On 1 May 
the unit moved by water back to Nyaparake. 
Outposts were established about four miles 
inland at Charov and Jalup, where the 
principal inland trail crossed the Drindaria 
River, and patrols were sent to the east and 
west over the inland trail and in both direc- 
tions along the coastal track. The Nyaparake 
Force noticed no signs of organized enemy 
activity in the areas patrolled during the 
next few days. 

Meanwhile, patrols of the 2d Battalion 
had moved along the coast from the Driniu- 
mor River to Yakamul, four miles west of 
Nyaparake. Elements of the 1st Battalion 
maintained a patrol base at Afua for four 
days, and 3d Battalion patrols scouted trails 
from Chinapelli to the Tadji strips and the 
Kapoam villages. No signs of organized en- 
emy movements were discovered, and only 
weary Japanese stragglers attempting to 
make their way inland and westward were 
encountered. This complete lack of organ- 
ized Japanese operations in the area pa- 
trolled by the 127th Infantry to 4 May, 
together with the surprisingly easy seizure of 
the Tadji strips by the 163d Infantry, con- 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



113 



tradicted preassault estimates of the enemy 
situation in the Aitape area. 

The Enemy Situation to 4 May 

Prior to 22 April the Allies had estimated 
that 3,500 Japanese, including 1,500 com- 
bat troops of the 20th Division, were based 
at Aitape. The indications are that not more 
than 1,000 Japanese of all arms and services 
were actually in the Aitape area on D Day. 17 
These troops comprised mostly antiaircraft 
artillerymen and service personnel who fled 
inland when Allied landing operations be- 
gan. No organized resistance was encoun- 
tered except for the skirmishes at Kamti, 
and the only evidence of centralized com- 
mand in the area was a captured report, 
dated 25 April, from the Commander, 
Aitape Garrison Unit, to the 18th Army. 
The document told of the Allied landings, 
described operations to 25 April, set the 
strength of the Aitape Garrison U nit at 240 
troops, and outlined a grandiose plan of 
attack, which probably culminated in the 
action around Kamti. Unknown to the Al- 
lies, there had been a small scouting party of 
the 20th Division at Aitape on D Day, but 
after the landings this group withdrew east- 
ward to rejoin the main body of the 18th 
Army. Other Japanese survivors in the 
Aitape area tried to make their way west- 
ward to Vanimo, a minor enemy barge 
hideout on the coast between Aitape and 
Hollandia. 18 

" Rad Alamo to GHQ, WF-3714, 22 Apr 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 21-22 Apr 44; GHQ 
SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Persecution, 24 
Jan 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 Jan 44; PTF G-2 Jnl, 
22 Apr-4 May 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI's 710- 
61, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 1 Mar-22 
Apr 44. 

18 PTF G-2 Jnl, 22 Apr~4 May 44; Rad, PTF to 
Alamo, AE-220, 29 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hol- 
landia, 29-30 Apr 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 47, 
55-56. 



Between 22 April and 4 May, Japanese 
casualties in the Aitape area were estimated 
at 525 killed, and during the same period 
25 of the enemy were captured. Allied losses 
were 19 killed and 40 wounded. All the 
Allied casualties were American, and with 
but two or three exceptions all were suf- 
fered by the 163d Infantry. 19 

There were a few signs that the 18th 
Army might be initiating a movement west- 
ward from Wewak toward Aitape, since 
interrogations of natives and aerial recon- 
naissance produced indications of organized 
enemy activity far beyond the east flank of 
the Persecution Task Force. The Japa- 
nese were reported to be bridging the 
Anumb River, about fifteen miles east of the 
Danmap. Motor vehicles or their tracks were 
observed along the beach and on the coastal 
trail from Wewak west to the Anumb, and 
aerial observers and Allied ground patrols 
found that enemy parties were reconnoiter- 
ing the coastal track from the Danmap River 
west to the mouth of the Dandriwad. 
Natives reported that organized Japanese 
groups were bivouacking at various coastal 
villages between the Dandriwad and 
Danmap. 

Intelligence officers of the Persecution 
Task Force and Alamo Force interpreted 
these activities as indicating that an or- 
ganized westward movement by 18th Army 
units was under way. Whether or not this 
movement presaged an attack on the Per- 
secution Task Force was not yet clear, but 
it seemed certain that Allied troops on the 
east flank might soon meet strong Japanese 
units. 20 

" PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 6; 
PTF G-l and G-2 Jnls, 22 Apr-4 May 44. 

2 'Rads, PTF to Alamo, KL-748 and AE-373, 3 
May 44, Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-406, 4 May 44, 
and Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-617, 4 May 
44 all in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 May 44. 



114 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Contact with the 18th Army on the East 
Flank 

While the Persecution Task Force was 
accomplishing its primary mission — seizure 
and repair of the Tadji strips — final plans 
were being made at higher headquarters for 
another operation in the Wakde-Sarmi area 
of Dutch New Guinea, 250 miles northwest 
of Aitape. The 163d Regimental Combat 
Team and General Doe with most of his 
staff were to participate in the new advance, 
which was scheduled for mid-May. General 
Krueger therefore directed that the 163d 
Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Di- 
vision be relieved of combat in the Aitape 
area and concentrated at Blue Beach by 
6 May to begin staging for Wakde-Sarmi. 21 

Reorganization of the PERSECUTION 
Task Force 

The 32d Infantry Division, less two regi- 
ments, was to move from Saidor in eastern 
New Guinea to Aitape to relieve the 163d 
Regimental Combat Team. The 127th 
Regimental Combat Team of the 32d Di- 
vision had already arrived at Aitape. Ini- 
tially, the 128th Infantry was to remain at 
Saidor as part of the Alamo Force Reserve 
for Wakde-Sarmi. The remainder of the 
32d Division, consisting of the 126th Regi- 
mental Combat Team and division troops, 
arrived at Blue Beach on 4 May. Maj. Gen. 
William H. Gill, the division commander, 
immediately assumed command of the Per- 
secution Task Force and two days later his 
division staff, after becoming acquainted 

!1 Alamo Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Rad, PTF to Alamo, 
R-103, 4 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
6-7 May 44. 



with the situation in the Aitape area, began 
activity as Headquarters, Persecution 
Task Force. 22 

Just before the Wakde-Sarmi operation 
began, it was decided to move the 128th 
Infantry from Saidor to Aitape so that the 
unit would be closer to its potential objec- 
tive area in case of need. Noncombat ships 
being available, the 128th Infantry (less the 
3d Battalion) was shipped to Blue Beach, 
where it arrived on 1 5 May. The rest of the 
regiment, together with rear echelons of 
other 3 2d Division units, arrived at Aitape 
later in the month. Early in June the 1 28th 
Infantry was released from its Alamo Force 
Reserve role for Wakde-Sarmi and reverted 
to the control of the 32d Division and the 
Persecution Task Force. 23 

As soon as General Gill assumed com- 
mand of the Persecution Task Force, de- 
fenses in the Aitape area were reorganized. 
The area west of Waitanan Creek, desig- 
nated the West Sector, was assigned to the 
126th Regimental Combat Team. To the 
east, the 127th Regimental Combat Team 
was to operate in an area named the East 
Sector. A series of defensive lines in front 
of a main line of resistance around the air- 
strips covered the approaches to the vital 
fields. Positions on the main line of resist- 
ance were to be constructed rapidly but 
were to be occupied only on orders from 
task force headquarters. Beyond the main 
line of resistance there were set up a local 
security line, an outpost line, of resistance, 
and an outpost security patrol line. The lat- 

B Alamo Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44; 32d Div FO 1, 
30 Apr 44, and PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, both in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44. 

™ Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-840, 17 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 16-18 May 44; Rad, 
Alamo Adv Hq to PTF, WH-271, 8 Jun 44, in 
Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 7-8 Jun 44. 



4-1 » Ma, 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
(Headquarters J!d Infanlry Division) 
Maj. Gen. William H. Gill 



Weil Seclor 
(Headquarters 1 26lh Infantry) 



Eoil Seclor 
(Headquailets 127lK Inlonlry) 
Col. Meile H. Howe 



I2*ihln,ani.y 



1S7lh inlan<ry(-> 



19-20 Ma, 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
(Headquarters 32d InlanTry Division) 
Mai. Gen. William H, Gill 



(H.adq«a!re« S lS6* Infantry) 



East Secloi 
(Headquarter 1271b infonlfy) 
Eria Gen. Clarence A. Martin 



116,1, Inlanliy 



X 



Nyapaiolce Force 



1 



19.7,1. Infanlry (-j 



Elements Tit Ballation 
127lh Infantry 



ISd Reconnaissance Troap 



29 May-IOJune 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 

(Headquarter* 32d InFanliy Division) 
Mai. Gen. William H. Gill 



Wen Seclor 
(Headquarters 126lh Inlonliy) 



Persecution Task Force Reserve 
(Heodqvarlers 138,1. Inlanlry) 



Easl Sector 
(Headquarters 127th Inlonliy) 
fins. Gen. Cloience A. Martin 



lS6lh Infanlry 
(less 1sl and 
Id Bollolions) 



128lh Infanlry 



1st Battalion, 
1S6lh Inlanlry 



2d Ballation, 
1 2,611. Infantry 



Boiley Foice 
(2-5 June only) 



Heriick Forte 
(1-5 June only) 



lu-4SJuiie 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
(Headquarters 33d Infanlry Division) 
Maj. Gen. William H. Gill 



West Seclor 
(Headquarters 1J6lh Inlanliy) 



Cenler Seclor 
(Headquarters 1 S8lh Infanlry) 



12olh Infanliy 
(less 3d Bollalion) 



128lS Infanlty 
(less 1:1 Bollalion) 



127lh Inlonliy 



Easl Seclor 
Brig. Gen. Clarence A, Martin 



III Ballalion, 
1S8lh Inlanliy 



2d Ballalion, 
T24lh Infanlry 



116 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ter, lying about ten miles inland, was to 
mark the general limits of patrolling. 24 

The 126th Infantry completed relief of 
the 163d Infantry's outposts and patrol 
bases on the west flank by 8 May. There- 
after, outpost troops were rotated from time 
to time, and gradually many outposts were 
closed out, as Japanese activity on the west 
ceased. On 29 May, because Japanese pres- 
sure was increasing on the east flank, the 1st 
and 2d Battalions, 126th Infantry, were 
transferred to the East Sector, and responsi- 
bility for patrolling and defending the West 
Sector (which had been extended in mid- 
May to the eastern edge of Tadji Fighter 
Strip) passed to the 3d Battalion, 126th 
Infantry. Patrolling by all elements of the 
126th Infantry in the West Sector ac- 
counted for a few Japanese killed, found 
dead along inland trails, or captured. 25 

On 10 June boundaries between various 
elements of the Persecution Task Force 
were again changed and redispositions 
were effected. A new defensive area, desig- 
nated the Center Sector, was established 
between the West and East Sectors to cover 
the ground between the eastern edge of the 
Tadji airstrips to a line running southwest- 
ward inland from Pro. The new sector 
became the responsibility of the 128th In- 
fantry, while the 126th Infantry retained 
control in the West Sector and the 127th 
continued operations in the East Sector, 
At the same time, the main line of resistance 
was drawn in toward the airfields from a 
previous eastern extension along the Nigia 
River, and the earlier inland defensive lines 
were either abolished or withdrawn. Troops 
of the West and Center Sectors continued 



S1 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hol- 
landia, 2-3 May 44. 

25 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 126th 
Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 
May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10. 



patrolling in the areas for which they were 
responsible. Only a few enemy stragglers 
were encountered, and no signs of organized 
Japanese activity were discovered in those 
sectors. 20 

East Sector Troops Meet the Enemy 

Col. Merle H. Howe, commanding the 
127th Infantry, was assigned to the com- 
mand of the East Sector on 6 May. His mis- 
sions were to maintain contact with the 
enemy on the eastern flank, to discover en- 
emy intentions, and to delay any westward 
movement on the part of elements of the 
1 8th Army. He was ordered to maintain 
outposts and patrol bases at Anamo and 
Nyaparake on the coast and at Chinapelli 
and Afua inland. When he took over his 
new command, Colonel Howe had little in- 
formation concerning the Japanese on the 
east flank beyond the fact that elements of 
two of the 1 8th Army's three divisions had 
been identified far east of the Nigia River. 
Troops of the 20th Division had been dis- 
covered building defensive positions on the 
east bank of the Danmap River and ele- 
ments of the 41st Division were thought to 
be in the same general area. Finally, air ob- 
servers had discovered concentrations of 
Japanese troops at coastal villages between 
the Danmap and Wewak. There seemed to 
be definite indications that large elements 
of the 18th Army were beginning to move 
westward from Wewak. 27 

Colonel Howe subdivided his East Sector 
into battalion areas. The 1st Battalion, 
127th Infantry, was to maintain a rein- 



s' ptf FO 4, 10 Jun 44, atchd to PTF Opns Rpt 
Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 
Jun 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 4 May-Jun 44. 

21 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, and G-2 Annex thereto, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44; 127th 
Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



117 



forced rifle company at Nyaparake and an 
outpost at Babiang, to the east near the 
mouth of the Dandriwad River. The bat- 
talion was to patrol up the Dandriwad and 
along the coast east to the Danmap River. 
The 2d Battalion was made responsible for 
inland patrols to Chinapelli, Palauru, and 
Afua. The 3d Battalion was to maintain 
permanent outposts at Anamo, near the 
mouth of the Driniumor River, and at Afua, 
six miles up that stream. Some of these dis- 
positions were already in effect, with the 
Nyaparake Force on station and 2d Bat- 
talion units operating in the Palauru area. 
The other dispositions were completed by 
mid-May. 28 

The Nyaparake Force, comprising Com- 
pany C and elements of Company D, and 
commanded by Capt. Tally D. Fulmer of 
Company C, 127th Infantry, started pa- 
trolling to the east and inland on 7 May. 29 
On that day, patrols pushed across the 
mouth of the Dandriwad River to Babiang 
and Marubian. After clashing with a well- 
organized Japanese patrol, the Nyaparake 
Force elements withdrew to the west bank 
of the Dandriwad and spent the next day 
patrolling up that river and questioning 
natives concerning enemy movements. On 
the 8th a rifle platoon and a light machine 
gun section from Company A arrived to 
strengthen the Nyaparake Force. 

The advance eastward was resumed the 
next day along two routes beyond Babiang. 
One was the coastal trail and the other the 
"Old German Road," a name presumably 
referring to the days of German occupation 

" 127th Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44. 

20 Information in the remainder of this subsection 
is based principally upon: 127th Inf Jnl files, 5—15 
and 15-31 May 44: 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 
Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, 
pp. 3-10; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th 
Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 1-2. 



of this part of New Guinea before World 
War I. The Old German Road paralleled 
the coastal track at a distance of about 300 
yards inland. Supported by Seventh Fleet 
PT's based at Aitape, Nyaparake Force pa- 
trols pushed almost 5,000 yards east of the 
Dandriwad during the day, encountering 
some resistance along both routes. At dusk 
all patrols retired to Babiang, and Captain 
Fulmer re-examined his situation in the 
light of information obtained during the 
day. Large enemy groups had been reported 
to the west of Nyaparake at Yakamul and 
even as far distant as the Driniumor River, 
over halfway back to the Tadji perimeter. 
To the east, Japanese opposition gave every 
indication of increasing. Finally, it appeared 
that the Nyaparake Force was being out- 
flanked to the south. Reports had come in 
that enemy parties were moving along the 
foothills of the Torricelli Mountains imme- 
diately south of the main inland east-west 
trail, which crossed the Dandriwad and 
Drindaria Rivers about four miles upstream. 

Captain Fulmer strengthened the out- 
post at Charov, up the Drindaria, in order 
to keep closer watch on the enemy reported 
south of that village. At the same time he 
requested that aircraft strafe the coastal 
trail and the Old German Road east of 
Babiang before any further attempt to ad- 
vance eastward was made. Colonel Howe 
agreed to request the air support mission, 
and he ordered the Nyaparake Force to con- 
tinue pushing eastward after the air strike 
was completed. 

Eight P-40's of No. 78 Wing, Royal 
Australian Air Force, bombed and strafed 
the two roads east of Babiang at 1130 on 
10 May. Marubian, thought to be a Japa- 
nese assembly point, was also attacked. After 
the air strikes Captain Fulmer sent the 1st 
Platoon, Company C, forward from Ba- 



118 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



biang while the. 3d Platoon moved on to 
take Marubian without opposition. A de- 
fensive perimeter was set up around Maru- 
bian and an ambush was established on the 
Old German Road south of that village. No 
contacts were made with the enemy during 
the day. The advance continued on the 1 1th 
and the two forward platoons had reached 
a point about two miles beyond Marubian 
by early afternoon when they were halted 
by Japanese machine gun and small arms 
fire. The 3d Platoon, on the coastal trail, 
pulled back about six hundred yards from 
the point of contact and watched a party 
of about fifty-five well-equipped Japanese 
proceed southwestward off the trail and dis- 
appear inland. The 3d Platoon dug in for 
the night on the beach, while the 1st Pla- 
toon, on the Old German Road, returned 
to Marubian. 

Captain Fulmer decided to move the rest 
of Company C, 127th Infantry, to Maru- 
bian on 12 May. Since this would practi- 
cally denude the base at Nyaparake of 
combat troops, the Charov outpost was 
ordered to return to the base village. These 
redispositions were accomplished during the 
morning of the 12th, and the advance east- 
ward beyond Marubian was resumed about 
1300 the same day. 

The 3d Platoon of Company C, in the 
lead, soon encountered rifle and machine 
gun fire from Japanese positions at a stream- 
crossing near which the advance had 
stopped the previous afternoon. In an at- 
tempt to outflank the Japanese, the 1st 
Platoon moved inland about 300 yards and 
into line south of the 3d. This maneuver led 
the 1st Platoon into dense jungle where it 
was stopped by determined enemy small 
arms fire. Further probing of the enemy 
defenses proved fruitless and, as night was 
approaching, Captain Fulmer pulled the 



platoon out of action. The unit moved back 
to the beach and dug in about 600 yards 
west of the stream crossing, where the 3d 
Platoon had already set up defenses. 

About 1100 on the 13th the 2d Platoon, 
with a section of 81 -mm. mortars and an- 
other of .50-caliber machine guns attached, 
arrived in the forward area. The riflemen 
of the 2d and 3d Platoons then joined forces 
and pushed on down the coast through the 
scene of the previous afternoon's encounter 
until held up at another stream by new 
enemy defenses. The 1st Platoon remained 
behind to protect the mortars and machine 
guns. Scouts having reported that the Jap- 
anese were firmly entrenched at the new 
crossing, Captain Fulmer used his heavy 
weapons to soften the opposition. The 81- 
mm. mortars and the .50-caliber machine 
guns fired for about twenty minutes on the 
enemy defenses, and a section of 60-mm. 
mortars joined in the last ten minutes of the 
barrage. Under cover of this fire the 2d and 
3d Platoons formed along the west bank 
of the small stream on a front extending 300 
yards inland. The 3d Platoon was on the 
beach and the 2d on the right. At 1400, as 
preparation fire ceased, the two platoons 
started eastward. The 3d crossed the small 
creek near the mouth without difficulty and 
pushed eastward nearly 500 yards before 
encountering any resistance. 

The situation in the 2d Platoon's sector 
was quite different. There the ground was 
covered with sago palms, underbrush, and 
heavy jungle growth which limited visibility 
to five or ten yards. The platoon ran into 
concentrated rifle and machine gun fire im- 
mediately after starting its attack and was 
unable to force a crossing of the small 
stream. The platoon leader disengaged his 
force and tried to cross the creek farther in- 
land. But the enemy refused his left flank 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



119 



and the maneuver failed. Because the dense 
rain forest masked their fires, mortars and 
heavy machine guns could not support 
further advances in the inland sector. Cap- 
tain Fulmer therefore pulled the platoon out 
of action on the right flank, drew it back to 
the beach, and sent it across the stream 
along the route taken by the 3d Platoon. 
After crossing the creek and drawing abreast 
of the 3d Platoon, the 2d Platoon again 
attacked in a southeasterly direction. 

The unit overran a small Japanese supply 
dump and aid station and advanced 50-100 
yards inland but was again pinned down by 
enemy machine gun fire. One squad at- 
tempted to find the left of the enemy's de- 
fenses by moving 1 00 yards deeper into the 
jungle. This effort proved futile. Since the 
platoon's forward elements were now being 
fired on from both the south and the east 
and because it was again impossible to sup- 
port the unit with mortar or machine gun 
fire, no further progress could be expected. 
The 3d Platoon had been forced to halt be- 
cause of the danger of being cut off by the 
Japanese opposing the 2d Platoon. Captain 
Fulmer called off the attack to set up night 
defenses. 

The 3d Platoon anchored its left flank on 
the beach at a point about 150 yards east of 
the small stream, extending its lines about 
50 yards inland and westward another 75 
yards. The 2d Platoon tied its left into the 
right of the 3d and stretched the perimeter 
west to the mouth of the creek. About 200 
yards beyond the eastern edge of this perim- 
eter was an outpost of eight men, including 
mortar observers who were in contact with 
the main force by sound-powered telephone. 
Inside the larger perimeter were 60-mm. 
mortars, light machine guns, .50-caliber 
machine guns, and an aid station. Since the 
8 1 -mm. mortars could not obtain clearance 



in the area chosen for the main force, they 
remained under the protection of the 1st 
Platoon in a separate perimeter about 500 
yards to the west. It seemed certain that the 
Japanese who had been holding up the ad- 
vance during the day would attack during 
the night, and it was considered probable 
that such an attack would come through the 
heavy jungle at the southern, or inland, side 
of the main perimeter, where visibility was 
limited to five yards even in daylight. 

The expected attack was not long in com- 
ing, although not from the direction antic- 
ipated. Shortly after 0200 on 14 May, after 
a short preparation by grenades, light mor- 
tars, and light machine guns, 100 to 200 
Japanese of the 78th Infantry, 20th Divi- 
sion, 50 attacked from the east against the 
coastal sector of the perimeter. This assault 
was broken up by rifle and automatic weap- 
ons fire and by lobbing mortar shells to the 
rear of the advancing enemy group. The 
Japanese disappeared into the jungle south 
of the narrow beach. For the next hour Cap- 
tain Fulmer's mortars placed harassing fire 
into suspected enemy assembly points east 
of the small stream. Meanwhile, the eight- 
man outpost reported that many small par- 
ties of Japanese were moving up the beach 
within 300 yards of the main perimeter and 
then slipping southward into the jungle. 
Such maneuvers seemed to presage another 
attack. 

The second assault came about 0330, 
this time against the eastern and southeast- 
ern third of the defenses. The Japanese were 
again beaten back by small arms and mor- 
tar fire, but at 0500 they made a final effort 
which covered the entire eastern half of 
the perimeter. This last attack was quickly 
broken up and the Japanese quieted down. 

30 This identification is from 18th Army Opns, 
III, 83-84. 



120 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



About 0730 on the 14th, elements of Com- 
pany A, 127th Infantry, began moving into 
the forward perimeter to reinforce Captain 
Fulmer's beleaguered units. The 1st Pla- 
toon of Company C and the 81 -mm. mortar 
section also moved forward in preparation 
for continuing the advance. 

But now questions arose at the headquar- 
ters of the East Sector and the Persecution 
Task Force concerning the feasibility of fur- 
ther advance. Captain Fulmer was willing 
to continue forward if he could be rein- 
forced by a rifle platoon of Company A, 
another section of heavy machine guns, and 
another section of 8 1 -mm. mortars. Colonel 
Howe and General Gill looked on the matter 
from a different point of view. It would be 
extremely difficult, they realized, to estab- 
lish an overland supply system for the ad- 
vancing force and they knew that there were 
not enough small boats available in the 
Aitape area to insure overwater supply. 
Further advance would accomplish little 
unless a large base for future operations 
could be established well beyond the Maru- 
bian area, a project for which insufficient 
troops and amphibious craft were available. 
Moreover, the principal mission of the Per- 
secution Task Force was to protect the 
Tadji airfields, not to undertake large-scale 
offensive operations. General Gill finally 
decided to withdraw the Nyaparake Force's 
advance elements from the Marubian area 
and replace it with Company A, under the 
command of Capt. Herman Bottcher, 31 who 
was to carry out a holding mission on the 
west bank of the Dandriwad. 



" Captain Bottcher had been awarded a DSC and 
a battlefield promotion from the ranks during the 
Papuan Campaign. His exploits there are recounted 
in Milner, Victory in Papua. 



Withdrawal from Yakamul 

On 1 3 May the bulk of Company A ar- 
rived at Ulau Mission, just west of the 
Dandriwad's mouth. 32 Company C re- 
mained at Marubian temporarily. There 
was little action on the 1 3th, but events the 
next day prompted General Gill to change 
his plans again. On the 14th Japanese 
patrols moved between Company C and the 
Dandriwad River, cutting the company's 
overland line of withdrawal. At the same 
time strong enemy patrols harassed Com- 
pany A's positions at Ulau Mission. It 
seemed apparent that the American outposts 
could not long withstand this pressure and, 
therefore, both the Ulau and Marubian 
units were picked up by small craft on the 
15th and taken westward to Nyaparake, 
whence the advance eastward had begun a 
week earlier. 

During the next few days the Nyaparake 
Force continued patrolling, making con- 
tacts with well-organized enemy units which 
appeared to be more aggressive and larger 
than those previously encountered in the 
East Sector. Companies C and D returned 
to Tadji Plantation on 19 May and were 



82 Information in this subsection is based on : 
127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May and 1-11 Jun 44: 
1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 32d Ren 
Tr Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 6-14; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 
May-28 Jun 44: PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 
Jun 44, pp. 4-9: 1st Bn 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 
Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 
Jun 44, pp. 2-7; PTF FO 3, 19 May 44, in PTF 
G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 2d Bn 80th Inf, Field 
Diary, 31 May-14 Jul 44, as translated in 32d 
Inf Div G-2 files, in ORB RAC AGO collection; 
18th Army Opns III, 84—88; Incl 2, Comments and 
Observations, pp. 1-2, to Ltr, Maj Gen Clarence A. 
Martin to Gen Ward, 12 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH 
files. The latter document is hereafter cited as Mar- 
tin Comments. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



121 



replaced at Nyaparake by the 3 2d Recon- 
naissance Troop. On the same day Brig. 
Gen. Clarence A. Martin, Assistant Division 
Commander, 32d Division, was placed in 
command of the East Sector and charged 
with the missions previously assigned to 
Colonel Howe — to maintain contact with 
and delay enemy units moving westward. 
General Martin was directed to move all 
East Sector troops except the Nyaparake 
Force to the west bank of the Driniumor 
River. The Nyaparake Force, now compris- 
ing the 3 2d Reconnaissance Troop and 
Company A, 127th Infantry, was placed 
under the command of Captain Bottcher, 
who was transferred from Company A to 
the command of the reconnaissance unit. 
To render the force more mobile, all its 
heavy equipment was sent back to Blue 
Beach, and the unit was instructed to retire 
to the Driniumor River in case Japanese 
pressure increased. 

Captain Bottcher's patrols soon found 
that enemy pressure was indeed increasing. 
Some Japanese patrols were active to the 
east while others outflanked the force to the 
south and, about 1850 on 22 May, attacked 
from the west. During the following night 
the Nyaparake Force fought its way out of 
this encirclement and retired two miles 
along the beach to Parakovio. The next day 
General Martin sent most of Company A 
back to Tadji and that night and during the 
morning of the 24th the remaining elements 
of the Nyaparake Force withdrew along the 
beach to good defensive positions at the 
mouth of a small creek about 3,000 yards 
west of Yakamul. The Japanese followed 
closely, occupying Yakamul and sending 
scouting parties westward along inland trails 
toward Afua and the Driniumor River. 

By now it was evident that the Japanese 
had crossed the Drindaria in some force 



and it appeared that the aggressive enemy 
patrols had missions other than merely 
screening movements far to the east in the 
Wewak area. Deeming the Japanese move- 
ments a threat to the security of the Tadji 
airfields, General Gill decided to make an 
effort to drive the enemy's forward units 
back across the Drindaria. For this purpose 
he assigned the 1st Battalion, 126th Infan- 
try, to the East Sector. The battalion was to 
move forward to the Nyaparake Force's 
perimeter, where Company G, 127th In- 
fantry, was to relieve Captain Bottcher's 
men. The 126th Infantry's unit was to be 
supported by Battery C, 126th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion, from positions at the mouth 
of the Driniumor and by Battery B from the 
perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry. 

Company G completed the relief of the 
now misnamed Nyaparake Force on 31 
May, and about 1 100 on the same day the 
1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, reached the 
forward position. Lt. Col. Cladie A. Bailey's 
battalion pushed rapidly onward through 
Yakamul, from which the enemy withdrew 
hurriedly, and moved on to Parakovio 
against little opposition. Despite the lack of 
determined resistence on 3 1 May, it was 
soon to become evident that one battalion 
was not going to be strong enough to drive 
the Japanese forces already west of the 
Drindaria back across that stream. By this 
time elements of the 78th and 80th Infantry 
Regiments, 20th Division, had been defi- 
nitely identified west of the Drindaria. Al- 
though the Persecution Task Force did 
not yet know it, large segments of both regi- 
ments were operating in the Yakamul area, 
where they were supported by a few weap- 
ons of the 26th Field Artillery Regiment, 
20th Division. These Japanese forces now 
began to strike back at the 1st Battalion, 
126th Infantry, which, on 1 June, was able 



122 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



to advance only 400 yards beyond Parakovio 
before it was stopped by enemy machine 
gun and artillery fire. At 1115 General 
Martin ordered the unit to retire to Yaka- 
mul. Using Yakamul as a base, the battalion 
was to develop the enemy situation along 
the Harech River from the coast to the foot- 
hills of the Torricelli Mountains, five miles 
inland. 

During the night of 1-2 June, Japanese 
artillery shelled the battalion command post 
and enemy patrols drove in outposts which 
had been set up just east of Yakamul. The 
next morning the battalion was divided into 
two parts. At Yakamul was stationed Com- 
pany A, Headq uarters Com pany, and part 
of Company D. 



{Map 4] 



This combined 
group, numbering about 350 men, was put 
under the command of Capt. Gile A. Her- 
rick of Company A and designated Herrick 
Force. The rest of the battalion, now called 
Bailey Force, moved south down the trail 
from Yakamul to patrol along the Harech 
River. 

The Japanese soon became very active 
around the perimeter of Herrick Force. On 

3 June the enemy launched a series of minor 
attacks against Company A, which was sep- 
arated from the rest of Herrick Force by a 
small, unbridged stream about four feet 
deep and varying in width from ten to 
fifty yards. Under cover of these attacks, 
other Japanese groups bypassed Herrick 
Force to the south and on the next morning 
appeared west of Yakamul, between Her- 
rick Force and the two-mile distant per- 
imeter of Company G, 127th Infantry. 

Sporadic small arms fire, intensifying 
during the afternoon, was directed at all 
parts of the Herrick Force perimeter during 

4 June. About 1 640 this fire was augmented 
by mortar and artillery shells, a develop- 
ment which seemed to presage an imminent 
Japanese infantry attack. At 1830 an enemy 



force of more than company strength surged 
out of the jungle on the southeast side of 
the American perimeter in an apparent at- 
tempt to drive a wedge between Company 
A and the rest of Herrick Force. The attack 
was halted by automatic weapons fire and 
the barrier presented by the small stream. 
The enemy then turned northeast from the 
creek against Company A. Simultaneously, 
a small group of enemy attacked west along 
the beach. 

Because Company A was in danger of 
being surrounded, Captain Herrick ordered 
the unit to withdraw across the small stream 
to Yakamul. Since the Japanese had the 
stream covered with small arms and at least 
one well-concealed machine gun, the with- 
drawal was a slow process and consumed 
over an hour. During the movement the 
Japanese continued to attack and, toward 
the end of the hour, succeeded in overrun- 
ning some of Company A's automatic weap- 
ons positions. Deprived of this support, most 
of the remaining troops retreated rapidly 
across the stream, leaving behind radios, 
mortars, machine guns, and twenty to 
twenty-five dead or wounded men. Most of 
the wounded managed to get across the 
stream after darkness, which was approach- 
ing at the time of the enemy's final attack. 

By 1940 the Japanese were in complete 
possession of the Company A position, 
whence they could send flanking fire toward 
the Yakamul perimeter. Captain Herrick 
ordered his men to dig in deeply. He re- 
organized his positions and even put some of 
the lightly wounded on defensive posts. 
Japanese ground attacks kept up until 2200, 
and sporadic bursts of mortar, grenade, and 
machine gun fire continued throughout the 
night. 

When he learned of the situation at Yaka- 
mul, General Martin ordered Bailey Force 
to return to the coast and relieve Herrick 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



123 



Force. Radio communication difficulties 
prevented delivery of this order until 2000 
and it was 2200 before Colonel Bailey could 
organize his force in the darkness and heavy 
jungle and start it moving north. By that 
time the Japanese had a strong force block- 
ing the trail to Yakamul. Bailey Force there- 
fore had to swing northwest toward the 
perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry, 
two miles west of Yakamul. After an ardu- 
ous overland march through trackless, 
heavily jungled terrain, the leading elements 
of Bailey Force began straggling into Com- 
pany G's perimeter about 1130 on 5 June. 

General Martin then ordered Bailey Force 
to move east and drive the Japanese from 
the Yakamul area, but this order was 
changed when the East Sector commander 
learned that Bailey Force had been march- 
ing for over thirteen hours on empty stom- 
achs and was not yet completely assembled 
at Company G's perimeter. Bailey Force was 
thereupon fed from Company G's limited 
food supply and sent west along the coastal 
trail to the Driniumor River. Company G 
and the battery of the 126th Field Artillery 
Battalion which it had been protecting 
moved back to the Driniumor late in the 
afternoon. 

Meanwhile, the evacuation of Herrick 
Force from Yakamul had also been ordered, 
and about 1115 on 5 June small boats ar- 
rived at Yakamul from Blue Beach to take 
the beleaguered troops back to the Tadji 
area. Insofar as time permitted, radios, am- 
munition, and heavy weapons for which 
there was no room on the boats were de- 
stroyed. As this work was under way, a few 
light mortars and light machine guns kept 
up a steady fire on the Japanese who, now 
surrounding the entire perimeter, had been 
harassing Herrick Force since dawn. At the 
last possible moment, just when it seemed 



the Japanese were about to launch a final 
infantry assault, Captain Herrick ordered 
his men to make for the small boats on the 
run. The move was covered by friendly 
rocket and machine gun fire from an LCM 
standing offshore, while the Japanese took 
the running men under fire from the old 
Company A positions. So fast and well or- 
ganized was the sudden race for the boats 
that the Japanese had no time to get all 
their weapons into action, and only one 
American was wounded during the board- 
ing. The small craft hurriedly left the area 
and took Herrick Force back to Blue Beach, 
where the unit was re -equipped. By 1500 
the troops had rejoined the rest of the 1st 
Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the Driniumor 
River. 

Losses of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infan- 
try, during its action in the Yakamul area 
were 18 men killed, 75 wounded, and 8 
missing. The battalion estimated that it had 
killed 200 to 250 Japanese and wounded 
many more. 33 

Operations Along the Driniumor 

While the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, 
had been patrolling in the Yakamul area, 
elements of the 127th Infantry had been 
operating to the west along the Driniumor 
River from the coast six miles upstream to 
Afua. 34 Until the end of May little Japanese 

83 A Japanese postwar estimate sets Japanese losses 
in the Yakamul area from 31 May through 6 June 
at 100 men killed or wounded. Whatever the true 
figures, the estimate of the 1st Battalion, 126th In- 
fantry, appears rather high. 

34 Unless otherwise indicated, material in this sub- 
section is from: PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May— 28 
Jun 44, pp. 3-10- PTF G-3 Jul, 4 May-2B Jun 44; 
127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May, 1-11 Jun, 12-18 
Jun, and 19-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 
May-28 Jun 44; 3d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 
Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 
44, pp. 4-9 ; Martin Comments, pp. 2—4. 




YAKAMUL AREA. Reproduction of original sketch (top), prepared in the field by 
S-3, 1st Batallion, 126th Infantry. Aerial photography of the same area (bottom). 



126 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



activity had been noted in the Anamo^Afua 
area, but on the 31st of the month a ration 
train carrying supplies up the west bank of 
the Driniumor to two platoons of Company 
L, 127th Infantry, at Afua was ambushed 
and forced back to the coast. Later in the 
day a party of Japanese estimated to be of 
company strength was seen crossing the 
Driniumor River from east to west at a 
point about 1,000 yards north of Afua. By 
dusk it appeared that at least two companies 
of Japanese had crossed the river near Afua 
and had established themselves on high, 
thickly jungled ground north and northwest 
of the village. 

During the next four days elements of the 
1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, maneuvered 
in fruitless attempts to drive a Japanese 
group, 75 to 100 strong, off a low, jungled 
ridge about a mile and a half north of Afua. 
Colonel Howe, concerned about the lack of 
success of his troops, early on the morning 
of 5 June radioed to the battalion com- 
mander: "This is the third day of maneu- 
vering to drive the enemy off that ridge. So 
far today we have had no report of enemy 
firing a shot and we are not sure they are 
even there. I have been besieged with ques- 
tions as to why we don't fight the enemy. 
Unless we can report some accomplishment 
today I have no alibis to offer. Push either 
Fulmer [Company C] or Sawyer [Company 
B] in there until they draw fire." 35 During 
the morning Companies B and C organized 
a final attack and occupied the ridge, which 
the Japanese had abandoned during the 
night. 

Meanwhile the Persecution Task Force 
had decided to establish an outer defensive 
line along the Driniumor River. Originat- 
ing in the Torricelli Mountains south of 

" Msg, 127th Inf to 1st Bn 127th Inf, 5 Jun 44, 
in 127th Inf Jnl file, 1-11 Jun 44. 



Afua, the river ran almost due north through 
many gorges and over steep falls to a sharp 
bend at Afua. From Afua to its mouth, a 
six-mile stretch, the river had an open bed 
varying from 75 to 150 yards in width. Ex- 
cept during tropical cloudbursts, this section 
of the river was not much more than knee 
deep. Dense rain forests extended to the 
river's banks at most places, although there 
were some areas of thinner, brushlike veg- 
etation. Islands, or rather high points of the 
wide bed, were overgrown with high cane- 
brake or grasses, limiting visibility across 
the stream. 

The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, dug 
in for 3,600 yards along the west bank of 
the river north from Afua, while the 1st 
Battalion, 126th Infantry, covered the same 
bank south from the river's mouth about 
2,000 yards. A gap of some 3,000 yards 
which was left between the two units was 
covered by patrols. On 7 June, when the 1st 
Battalion, 128th Infantry, replaced the 1st 
Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the northern 
portion of the defense line, a company of the 
former unit was strung out along some 500 
yards of the gap. 

On the same day Japanese activity broke 
out anew in the Afua area, this time about 
1,300 yards west of Afua on the Afua- 
Palauru trail, which had now become a 
main supply line for troops stationed in the 
Afua area. Two days later the Japanese had 
disappeared from the Afua-Palauru trail, 
much to the surprise of the Persecution 
Task Force. The task force G—2 Section de- 
cided that the enemy had withdrawn when 
his ration and ammunition supply was de- 
pleted, and this belief was strengthened 
during the next day or so when, contrary to 
previous sightings, all Japanese patrol move- 
ments in the Driniumor River area seemed 
to be from west to east. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



127 



For a couple of days some thought had 
been given to withdrawing the 1st Battalion, 
127th Infantry, from Afua because of the 
apparent threat to the Afua-Palauru supply 
line, but on 10 June Headquarters, Perse-, 
cution Task Force, decided to leave the 
battalion in place. On the same day the 
East Sector was ordered to speed develop- 
ment of strong defensive positions along the 
Driniumor. The river line was to be held as 
long as possible in the face of a Japanese 
attack and, if forced back, the East Sector 
troops were to delay enemy advances in 
successive positions — one along the line 
X-ray River-Koronal Creek, about halfway 
to the Nigia River, and the other at the 
Nigia itself — before retreating to the main 
line of resistance around the airfields. The 
East Sector was to patrol east of the 
Driniumor in order to maintain contact with 
the enemy: 30 

After 10 June Japanese patrols in the 
Driniumor area became less numerous and 
less aggressive, but more determined enemy 
parties were located in hilly and heavily 
forested terrain along the southern branches 
of Niumen Creek, which lay about 3,000 
yards east of the Driniumor. The Japanese 
appeared to be forming a counterreconnais- 
sance screen along Niumen Creek in order 
to prevent East Sector troops from finding 
out anything about deployments farther 
east. So successful were the enemy efforts 
that few patrols of the 127th Infantry (the 
3d Battalion replaced the 1st at Afua on 22 
June) managed to push beyond Niumen 
Creek. 

In the area covered by the 1st Battalion, 
128th Infantry, some patrols were able to 
move east along the coast as far as Yakamul, 
but about 20 June the Japanese put more 

J " PTF FO 4, 10 Jun 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May- 
28 Jun 44; Martin Comments, pp. 2-3. 



forces into the Yakamul area and stopped 
American patrolling in the region. In an 
attempt to gather additional information, 
one patrol was carried far down the coast 
to Suain Plantation. There a landing was 
made in a veritable hornet's nest of Japa- 
nese activity and the few men who reached 
the beach were hurriedly withdrawn. No 
more such long-range efforts to obtain infor- 
mation were made. 

The closing days of June found the Per- 
secution Task Force still in firm possession 
of the Tadji airfield area. Operations on the 
west flank had overcome all Japanese oppo- 
sition in that region, and no more enemy 
activity had been encountered there after 
early May. On the east flank, however, the 
situation was far different. All elements of 
the Persecution Task Force which had 
moved east of the Driniumor River had 
been gradually forced back until, at the end 
of the month, even small patrols were hav- 
ing difficulty operating east of the river. As 
the month ended, the task force's eastern 
defenses were along the west bank of the 
Driniumor, where the 1st Battalion, 128th 
Infantry, and the 3d Battalion, 127th In- 
fantry, were digging in, anticipating future 
attacks by elements of the 18th Army. Ex- 
cept for minor outposts, the rest of the Per- 
secution Task Force was encamped behind 
the Tadji airfield main line of resistance. 

Support of East Sector Operations 

East Sector forces were supplied by a 
variety of methods. Units along the coast 
were supported directly by small boat from 
Blue Beach or by native ration trains mov- 
ing along the coastal track. Supplies to the 
Afua area went south from the coast along 
the Anamo-Afua trail or, later, over the 
inland track from the Tadji fields through 



128 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Chinapelli and Palauru. Wheeled transport 
was impracticable except along short 
stretches of the coastal track. In early June, 
when the Japanese ambushed many ration 
parties which attempted to reach Afua, ex- 
periments were made with air supply from 
the Tadji strips. Breakage and loss were 
heavy at first, but air supply rapidly became 
more successful as pilots gained experience 
and ground troops located good dropping 
grounds. A dropping ground cleared on the 
west bank of the Driniumor about 2,200 
yards north of Afua soon became the prin- 
cipal source of supply for troops in the Afua 
area. 87 

Communications during operations east 
of the Driniumor were carried out prin- 
cipally by radio, but between units along 
the river and from the stream back to higher 
headquarters telephone became the prin- 
cipal means of communication. Keeping the 
telephone lines in service was a task to which 
much time and effort had to be devoted. 
The Japanese continually cut the lines, or 
American troops and heavy equipment ac- 
cidentally broke the wires. The enemy often 
stationed riflemen to cover breaks in the 
line, thus making repair work dangerous. 
Usually, it was found less time consuming 
and less hazardous to string new wire than 
to attempt to find and repair breaks. As a 
result, miles of telephone wire soon lined the 
ground along the trails or was strung along 
the trees in the Driniumor River area and 
back to the Tadji perimeter. 38 

37 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 
12-19; 127th Inf Jnl files, 1-11, 12-18, and 19-27 
Jun 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44. 

ffl Intervs with Brig Gen Julian W. Cunningham, 
ex-CG 1 1 2 Cav RCT, and Capt Leonard Lowry, ex- 
CO Company I, 127th Inf, Apr 47, copies in 
OCMH files. Many of the remarks concerning tele- 
phone and radio communications in this section are 
based on the experience of the 112th Cavalry in 
operations along the Driniumor River after 28 June. 



Before mid- June most telephone mes- 
sages in the East Sector were sent "in the 
clear," but evidence began to indicate that 
the Japanese were tapping East Sector lines. 
On 19 June, therefore, the Persecution 
Task Force directed that no more clear text 
telephone messages be used in the East Sec- 
tor. As in the case of the telephone, all radio 
messages, of which some concerning routine 
matters had been previously sent in the 
clear, were encoded after mid-June. 3fl 

Radio communications presented no par- 
ticular problems in the coastal region, but 
inland radio trouble was chronic and some- 
times acute. Radio range was limited, 
especially at night, by dense jungle and at- 
mospheric conditions, while almost daily 
tropical storms originating over the Torri- 
celli Mountains hampered both transmission 
and reception. At times the only way radio 
could be employed in the Afua area was by 
having artillery liaison sets transmit to artil- 
lery liaison planes flying directly overhead. 
There were some indications that the Japa- 
nese tried to jam East Sector radio circuits, 
but there was never any proof that the sus- 
pected jamming was anything more than 
static caused by adverse atmospheric condi- 
tions. 40 

Principal naval support for units in the 
Aitape area after the end of April was pro- 
According to Captain Lowry, who had been in the 
Aitape area since 23 April, the remarks apply equally 
well to the period before 28 June. The journals of 
all units of the Persecution Task Force during the 
period 22 April to 28 June contain many entries 
concerning the difficulties of communication, espe- 
cially radio, in the Aitape area. 

36 PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44. 

40 The suspicion that the Japanese tapped tele- 
phone lines and jammed radio circuits is to be found 
in the journals and reports of most of the American 
units which operated in the Aitape area. However, 
no Japanese documents captured at the time, no on- 
the-spot interrogations of prisoners, and no postwar 
Japanese reports contain any evidence that the en- 
emy engaged in cither practice. 



PRELUDE TO THE BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR 



129 





TADJI FIGHTER STRIP after 28 April. 



vided by Seventh Fleet PT's. These speedy 
craft devoted most of their attention to 
Japanese barge traffic east of Aitape, sink- 
ing or damaging so many of the enemy craft 
that the 18th Army units were forced to 
limit their westward movements to poor 
overland trails. One of the largest single 
"bags" was obtained during the night of 
26-27 June when fifteen Japanese barges 
were sunk near Wewak. In addition to their 
antibarge activity, the PT's also undertook 
many reconnaissance missions both east and 
west of Aitape, and, from time to time, pro- 
vided escorts or fire support for East Sector 
units operating east of the Driniumor. PT's 
also carried out many daylight patrols in 
co-operation with Australian aircraft based 
on the Tadji strips. The principal targets of 
these air-sea operations were Japanese 



coastal guns and troop concentrations along 
the beach between the Drindaria and 
Danmap Rivers.* 1 

Close air support and other air missions 
requested by the Persecution Task Force 
were carried out under the direction of No. 
10 Operational Group, Royal Australian 
Air Force. From 24 April through 12 May 
this group's combat planes comprised three 
P-40 squadrons of No. 78 Wing. The wing 
moved out of the Aitape area toward the 
end of May and from the period 25 May to 
9 June only the 1 10th Reconnaissance 
Squadron, U. S. Fifth Air Force, was sta- 
tioned at Tadji. On the 9th a squadron of 
Beaufighters (twin-engined fighters) of the 
Royal Australian Air Force's No. 71 Wing 

« PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 
10-11. 



130 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



arrived at Tadji and by the 15th two 
more squadrons of the same wing, both 
equipped with Beauforts (twin-engined 
fighter-bombers), had reached Aitape. On 
the 22d of the month, Headquarters, No. 
10 Operational Group, left Tadji and con- 
trol of air operations in the Aitape area 
passed to Headquarters, No. 71 Wing, 

In May the Australian aircraft flew over 
1,600 sorties and dropped almost fifty-seven 
tons of bombs of all types on ground targets 
from Aitape to Wewak. During June the 
pace of air operations was stepped up and 
from the 7th of that month until 6 July the 
two Beaufort squadrons alone flew 495 
sorties and dropped about 325 tons of 
bombs. When more bombing than the 
Tadji-based Beauforts could provide was 
needed, A-20's and B-25's of the Fifth Air 
Force, flying first from Nadzab in eastern 
New Guinea and later from Hollandia, 
swung into action. The Australian Beau- 



forts were also occasionally pressed into serv- 
ice as supply aircraft, dropping rations and 
ammunition to American forces along the 
Driniumor. Most supply missions were, 
however, undertaken by Fifth Air Force 
C-47's from Nadzab or Hollandia or some- 
times employing one of the Tadji strips as a 
staging base. Both Fifth Air Force and 
Australian planes also flew many reconnais- 
sance missions between Aitape and Wewak. 
These operations, together with the bomb- 
ing of coastal villages occupied by the Japa- 
nese, suspected enemy bivouac areas, 
bridges over the many streams between the 
Driniumor and Wewak, and Japanese field 
or antiaircraft artillery emplacements, ma- 
terially assisted the East Sector in the exe- 
cution of its delaying and patrolling 
missions. 42 

4J Ltrs, F/Lt Davies, Officer-in-Charge, War Hist 
Sec, Hq RAAF, to author, 2 Apr and 8 May 48, in 
OCMH files; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 
44, pp. 10-11. 



CHAPTER VI 



Deployment for Battle 



Reinforcement and Reorganization of the 
PERSECUTION Task Force 

Prior to 22 April the Persecution Task 
Force had little information concerning the 
intentions of the 18th Army, but soon after 
that date the task force learned that the 
Japanese unit had planned to move from 
Wewak toward Hollandia. In May and 
June, East Sector operations had produced 
many indications that a westward displace- 
ment of the 18th Army was in full swing. 

The Decision to Reinforce Aitape 

For some time the G-2 Section of Head- 
quarters, Alamo Force, did not believe that 
the movements noted by the Persecution 
Task Force presaged a Japanese attack on 
the Aitape perimeter. Instead, Alamo Force 
considered it more probable that the 18th 
Army was merely establishing strong points 
along the coast west from Wewak in order 
to delay Allied pushes eastward or to pro- 
vide flank protection for the main body of 
the 18th Army which might attempt to by- 
pass Aitape and Hollandia to the south and 
join the 2d Army in western New Guinea. 1 
Strength was added to these beliefs when 
patrols of the Allied Intelligence Bureau 

1 Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 40, 10 May 44, 
copy in G-2 DofA files. 



(AIB), 2 operating far inland beyond the 
Torricelli Mountains, reported westward 
movement of many small Japanese parties 
along inland trails. 3 Because more definite 
information was lacking, Alamo Force, un- 
til mid- June, clung to the idea that the 18th 
Army might bypass Aitape. 4 

The first identifications of organized 
enemy units east of Aitape had been secured 
during operations near Marubian in mid- 
May, when it was found that elements of 
the 20th Division were operating in that 
area. 5 Later the same month the Persecu- 
tion Task Force discovered from captured 

s The AIB was an operating agency of G-2 GHQ 
SWPA. It sent patrols behind enemy lines to gather 
information by a variety of means. Most of the white 
personnel of AIB parties operating in eastern New 
Guinea were Australians familiar with the terrain 
by reason of prewar residence or exploration. Native 
police were also used, but only occasionally were 
American personnel attached to the AIB parties in 
eastern New Guinea. In the Aitape area, the PTF 
sent out a few long-range American patrols. A few 
radio intelligence teams, operating to some extent 
under PTF direction and for other purposes on mis- 
sions for GHQ SWPA, were also sent inland from 
the Tadji perimeter. 

3 Alamo Force, G-2 Daily Rpt, 18 May 44, in 
Alamo G-2 Jnl Hollandia, 10 May-15 Jun 44. 

1 Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 45, 14 Jun 44, 
copy in G— 2 DofA files, indicates a final change of 
attitude on the part of the Alamo G— 2 Section. 

"Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-3134, 15 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 14-15 May 44; Rad, 
PTF to Alamo, AE-336J, 16 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 16-18 May 44. 



132 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



documents and prisoners that elements of 
both the 20 th and 4 1st Divisions were along 
the Dandriwad River. 8 Documents cap- 
tured by AIB patrols at the end of May in- 
dicated that the two divisions were to attack 
both Hollandia and Aitape. At that time 
the Alamo Force G— 2 Section estimated 
that the 18th Army might be mounting a 
two-pronged assault on Aitape, 7 and by 
early June the G-2 Section believed that the 
20th Division was in place east of Aitape, 
waiting only for the 41st Division to move 
up before launching an assault against the 
Persecution Task Force. The other divi- 
sion of the 18th Army, the 51st, was thought 
to be at Wewak, and it was believed that 
the unit was not to move westward. Thus, 
by early June it seemed evident to Alamo 
Force that the Japanese parties previously 
encountered south of the Torricelli Moun- 
tains comprised service troops no longer 
needed at Wewak or troops who had started 
moving westward before 22 April. 

The Alamo Force G-2 Section expected 
that the 20th and 4 1st Divisions could be 
in position to attack the Persecution Task 
Force by the end of June. 8 General Krueger 
believed that a Japanese assault could gain 
only temporary containment of Allied forces 
at Aitape and that an attack would be a 

"Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-958, 21 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 19-21 May 44; Rads, 
Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-3604 and WF-3526, 
22 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 22-25 
May 44; Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1152, 29 May 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 26-29 May 44. 

' Rads, Alamo to PTF, WF-5374 and WF-6412, 
30 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 30 May-2 
Jun 44; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 
44, copy in G-2 DofA files. 

8 Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1450, 10 Jun 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 7-12 Jun 44; Rad, PTF 
to Alamo, AE-1491, 12 Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 13-19 Jun 44; Rad, Alamo to GHQ 
SWPA, WF-3097, 15 Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 13-19 Jun 44; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly 
Rpt 45, 14 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. 



diversionary measure aimed at delaying 
further Allied advances in western New 
Guinea. Such action would have much to 
recommend itself to higher Japanese head- 
quarters which, the Alamo Force G-2 
Section correctly believed, had already be- 
come reconciled to the loss of the 18th 
Army? 

On 1 7 June General MacArthur ques- 
tioned Alamo Force concerning the advis- 
ability of reinforcing the Persecution Task 
Force. Though he considered it improbable 
that an 18th Army assault could seriously 
menace the Allied position at Aitape, he 
thought it possible that the Persecution 
Task Force might need reinforcing if the 
18th Army should muster all its available 
strength for an attack. He informed General 
Krueger that the 43d Infantry Division was 
scheduled for an early move to Aitape in 
order to stage there for operations farther 
west. But that division could not arrive at 
Aitape before the end of the first week in 
July. General MacArthur therefore sug- 
gested that if it appeared necessary to rein- 
force the Persecution Task Force before 
July, a regiment of the 31st Infantry Divi- 
sion might be made available immediately. 10 

To these suggestions General Krueger re- 
plied that many preparations had already 
been made at Aitape to meet any attack by 
the 18th Army. For instance, both ammuni- 
tion supply and hospitalization facilities had 
recently been increased. General Krueger 
believed that the forces already at Aitape 

3 Rad, Alamo to PTF, WF-6412, 30 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 30 May-2 Jun 44: 
Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 44, copy 
in G-2 DofA files. 

10 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, CX-13847, 17 
Jun 44, in Alamo G—3 Jnl Hollandia, 13-19 Jun 
44. The 43d Division had previously been in combat 
in the South Pacific Area. The 31st Division had not 
yet been in action and was finishing amphibious and 
jungle training at Oro Bay, New Guinea. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 

could, if properly handled, beat off any Jap- 
anese attack that might occur prior to the 
43d Division's arrival. If it looked necessary, 
however, he might send the 1 12th Cavalry 
Regimental Combat Team to Aitape. He 
considered that unit preferable to a regi- 
ment of the 31st Division, since he wanted 
to keep that division intact for a future op- 
eration. He requested an early decision from 
General MacArthur as to which unit should 
be moved to Aitape. 11 

While higher headquarters was reaching 
a decision concerning reinforcements, new 
information obtained by the Persecution 
Task Force prompted a change in plans. 
Documents captured after mid-June indi- 
cated that the Japanese were to complete a 
thorough reconnaissance south, southeast, 
and east of the Persecution Task Force's 
perimeter by the end of June in preparation 
for an attack by the 20th and 41st Divisions. 
This attack, it now appeared, awaited only 
the completion of the reconnaissance and 
the arrival of the bulk of the 41st Division 
in the forward area. 12 

By this time the Persecution Task 
Force's 155-mm. artillery had been sent to 
new operational areas in western New 
Guinea and tentative plans had been made 
to send the Beaufighter and Beaufort squad- 
rons of No. 71 Wing westward also. General 
Gill, upon receiving the new information 
concerning enemy intentions, requested 

"Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-3592, 18 
Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 13-19 Jun 
44. The 112th Cavalry RCT comprised the 112th 
Cavalry Regiment, the 148th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, and supporting troops. The RCT, which was 
a separate unit not part of any division, had been 
in action on New Britain. 

12 Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1659, 19 Jun 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 13-19 Jun 44; Rad, 
PTF to Alamo, AE-1694, 20 Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 20-25 Jun 44; Alamo Force, G-2 
Wkly Rpt 46, 21 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. 



133 

that the air support squadrons be retained 
or replaced; that a battalion of 155-mm. 
howitzers be sent to Aitape; and that the 
112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team 
be moved forward immediately. 13 

A few days later General Mac Arthur's 
headquarters, which had secured the infor- 
mation from radio intercepts, informed 
General Krueger that the 18th Army 
planned to attack about the end of the first 
ten days in July, employing 20,000 troops 
in the forward area and another 11,000 in 
reserve. 14 Alamo Force and the Allied Naval 
Forces immediately rounded up ships to 
send the 1 1 2th Cavalry Regimental Combat 
Team to Aitape, where the unit arrived on 
27 June. A 155-mm. howitzer battalion was 
shipped to Aitape a few days later and No. 
71 Wing was ordered to remain there. At 
the same time General Krueger reconsid- 
ered his decision not to employ part of the 
31st Division and ordered preparations 
made to move the 124th Regimental Com- 
bat Team of that division to Aitape. Efforts 
were also made to speed the shipment of 
the 43d Division from its New Zealand stag- 
ing area to Aitape. 15 

When all the reinforcements arrived, the 
Persecution Task Force's strength would 
equal two and two-thirds divisions. General 
Krueger therefore decided that a corps 

13 Rads, PTF to Alamo, AE-1699 and AE-1711, 
20 Jun 44, and AE-1806, 24 Jun 44- Rads, Alamo 
to PTF, WF-3970, 20 Jun 44, and WF-4060, 21 
Jun 44. All in Alamo G-3 Jnl Holla Jia, 20-25 
Jun 44. 

14 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo Adv Hq, C-14133, 
24 Jun 44, and Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo 
Adv Hq, WF-4646, 24 Jun 44, both in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 20-25 Jun 44. At this time Alamo 
Advance Headquarters was at Hollandia, while the 
rear echelon of the headquarters remained in eastern 
New Guinea. 

13 Rads, Alamo to PTF, WF-3970, 20 Jun 44, 
and WF-4060, 21 Jun 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 20-25 Jun 44. 



134 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



headquarters would be needed at Aitape. 
He chose for the command at Aitape Maj. 
Gen. Charles P. Hall who, together with 
his staff of XI Corps headquarters, had re- 
cently arrived in New Guinea from the 
United States. The change in command was 
not to entail a change in the principal mis- 
sion of the Persecution Task Force — de- 
fense of the Tadji airstrips. To carry out his 
mission, General Hall was instructed to 
break the initial impetus of the apparently 
impending 18th Army attack and, when the 
strength of the Persecution Task Force 
and the tactical situation permitted, under- 
take a vigorous counterattack. With these 
instructions in mind, General Hall assumed 
command of the Persecution Task Force 
as of midnight 27-28 June. 16 

While this change in command was being 
effected, more information concerning the 
plans of the 18th Army was obtained from 
radio intercepts and captured documents. 
It became known that the 20th Division was 
to cross the "Hanto" River on 29 June, ex- 
ecuting attacks toward Afua and East Sec- 
tor headquarters installations, which were 
located at Anamo, on the beach just west of 
the Driniumor's mouth. 17 General Head- 
quarters forwarded this information to 
Alamo Force with little attempt at interpre- 
tation, but the Alamo Force G-2 Section 
decided that the Hanto River was probably 
the Driniumor. The prospective attack, 
Alamo Force believed, would be launched 
during the night of 28-29 June at a point 
about two miles inland from the mouth of 
the Driniumor, It was considered probable 
that the 78th Infantry, 20th Division, would 
aim for control of the Afua-Palauru trail, 

w Ltr OI, Comdr Alamo to CG XI Corps, 25 Jun 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 27-29 Jun 44. 

" Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, G-14205, 26 Jun 
44, and Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1884, 28 Jun 44, 
both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 27-29 Jun 44. 



while the 80th Infantry moved on Anamo. 
Assuming the success of its initial attack, 
the 20th Division apparently planned to as- 
semble at "Hill 56," tentatively located 
about 4,000 yards northwest of Afua, and 
then push on toward the Tadji airfields. 
Alamo Force estimated that the maximum 
strength with which the 20th Division could 
attack was about 5,200 men, 18 

If this interpretation of available infor- 
mation was correct, General Hall had but 
one day to prepare his new command to 
meet the attack of the 18th Army. 

Reorganizations and Redispositions 

As soon as General Hall and the few 
members of his XI Corps staff that he had 
brought forward became acquainted with 
the situation in the Aitape area, Headquar- 
ters, XI Corps, assumed the role of Perse- 
cution Task Force Headquarters, using 
many men of Headquarters, 32d Division, 
until the rest of the corps staff could reach 
Aitape. Next, the command structure of the 
task force was rearranged, some changes in 
names were made, and several troop redis- 
positions were effected. 

The western part of the main line of re- 
sistance around the airfields — the area pre- 
viously assigned to the West and Center 
Sectors— became the responsibility of the 
Western Sector, under Brig. Gen. Alexander 
N. Stark, Jr. The eastern section of the main 
line of resistance was held by the Eastern 
Sector under General Gill. This unit also 
set up an outpost line of resistance along the 
Nigia River. General Martin's command, 
redesignated the Persecution Covering 
Force, was to continue to hold the delaying 
position along the Driniumor River. The 

" Rad, Alamo to PTF, WF-1027, 27 Jun 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 27-29 Jun 44. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



135 



western boundary of the covering force was 
a line running south from the coast along 
Akanai Creek and the X-ray River, a little 
over halfway from the Driniumor to the 
Nigia. 

Since no attacks were expected from the 
west, troops assigned to the Western Sector 
comprised principally engineers. The East- 
ern Sector was composed of the 32d Division 
less those elements assigned to the Perse- 
cution Covering Force. Supply, administra- 
tion, and evacuation for the covering force 
were responsibilities of Headquarters, 3 2d 
Division, which, for these purposes, acted in 
its administrative capacity rather than in its 
tactical role as Headquarters, Eastern Sec- 
tor. All three tactical commands operated 
directly under General Hall's control. 19 

While these changes were being made, 
the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat 
Team (less the 148th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion) had arrived at Blue Beach and had 
been assigned to General Martin's operation 
control. The combat team was commanded 
by Brig. Gen. Julian W. Cunningham, while 
the dismounted (and oft disgruntled about 
if) men of the 1 1 2th Cavalry Regiment 
were led by Col. Alexander M. Miller, III. 20 
The cavalry regiment was about half the 
strength of an infantry regiment. It com- 

» ptf FO 5, 29 Jun 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 27 Jun- 
3 Jul 44 ; miscellaneous orders and memos in PTF 
G-3 Jnl, 8-1 1 Jul 44. General Stark, Assistant Di- 
vision Commander, 43d Division, had just arrived at 
Blue Beach with an advance echelon of division 
headquarters. As originally set up on 29 June, the 
three commands were named, from west to east, the 
Western Defense Command, the Eastern Defense 
Area, and the Eastern Defense Command. The simi- 
larity in the names of the two eastern components 
soon proved confusing and the final changes, as out- 
lined above, were effected on 8 July. 

20 The 148th Field Artillery (105-mm. howitzers) 
reached Aitape in mid- July, and operated as part of 
the general artillery support under PTF (XI Corps) 
artillery. 



prised only two squadrons, each composed 
of three troops, as opposed to the three bat- 
talions of four companies each in an infan- 
try regiment. Instead of the three heavy 
weapons companies organic to the corre- 
sponding infantry unit, the 112th Cavalry 
had only one heavy weapons troop. More- 
over, the cavalry unit had arrived at Aitape 
with less than its authorized personnel. At 
no time during operations at Aitape did it 
number more than 1,500 men, in compari- 
son with the 3,000-odd of an infantry 
regiment. 21 

Initially, it was planned that the 1 1 2th 
Cavalry would take up positions in the 
Palauru area to defend the right rear of the 
Persecution Covering Force and act as 
General Martin's reserve. General Hall, de- 
ciding that the Driniumor River line needed 
strengthening, changed this plan and on 29 
June sent the regiment forward to the X-ray 
and Driniumor Rivers. Leaving the rest of 
the regiment at the X-ray, the 2d Squadron 
moved on to the Driniumor and took up 
defensive positions in the Afua area. Upon 
the arrival of this squadron at the river, the 
extent of the Driniumor defenses that were 
previously the responsibility of the 3d Bat- 
talion, 127th Infantry, was reduced and at 
the same time operational control of the 
infantry battalion passed to General Cun- 
ningham. This addition still did not bring 
the strength of the latter's command up to 
that of an infantry regiment. 22 

About the same time, the mission of the 
Persecution Covering Force was changed. 

21 Interv, author with Lt Col P. L. Hooper, ex- 
Exec Off, 112th Cav RCT, 25 Mar 48, in OCMH 
files. 

"Ibid.; PTF G-3 Jnl, 27 Jun-3 Jul 44; 112th 
Cav Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-4. The 112th Cavalry 
RCT did not submit a report for the Aitape cam- 
paign, but merely indorsed that of the 112th Cav- 
alry Regiment. 



Chart 9— The Persecution Task Forge: 28 June-11 July 1944 



38-29 June 




I 

Western Defense ArtO 
B,i, Gen Ale.onder N. Slarlt. Jr. 



Eastern Defense Ateo 
(Heodquarrers 32d Infatilty Divition) 
Mai G.n. W.ll.am H.Gill 



Engineer and 
Antiaircraft Units 



3Sd Inronlry Division 
(less elemenrt assigned to 
losritn Defense Command) 
Mo, Gen. William H. Gill 



tISlli lav^7 



. . Sid Cavalry 
Regi mental Combat Team 
(arrived Aitape an 27 June) 
Brig. Gen. Julian W. Cunningham 



Eastern Defense Command 



TSSlh Infantry 

(Ins 3d (iotmi.cn) 



» June-S July 



HEADQUARTERS PEHSEOITION TASK FORCE 
(H.odquorlen XI Corps) 
Maj Gen Oiotles P. Hall 



Western Defense Alto 
Blin. Gen Alesonder N. Stork, Jp. 



Engineer and 
Ant.a.rt.aft Units 



Eastern Defense Area 
(Headquarters 3Jd Infantry Division) 
Mai. G.n. W.lliom (-(_ G.ll 



Eastern Defente Command 
Btsg Gen. Clotince A, M,m 



32d Infantry Division 

(lets elements in 
Eastern Defense Command) 



Id Battalion, 
157lh Infant-, 



E 



I SetS Inlonlry 
(less 3d Battalion) 



llBrh Cavalry 
Regimental Combat Te. 



154th Inlantty 
(Persecution Talk force Reserve) 
Col. Ed~a,d M. Start 
(added on t July) 



8-1 1 July 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
(Heoefquotrers XI Corps) 
Mai. Get.. Cha.les P Hall 



Bri, Gen 



Eastern Sector 
(Headquarters 32d Infantry Divisi 
Mai. Gen. William H. Gill 



Engineer and 
Anliaircroll Units 



35d Infantry Division 
(less elements in Perse- 
cution Coveting Force) 



3d Battalion, 
1 B7lh Infantry 



Persecution Covering Force 
(Heodquoners ISBlh Infantry) 
Brig. Gen Clarence A. Martin 



I 1 1<h Cavalry 
Regimento! Combat Team 

Brig. Gen. 
Julian W Cunningham 



Persecution Task Force 
(Hearfquone/s l!<lh Infant, 
Col, Edward M. Starr 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



137 



General Krueger, who was maintaining 
close touch with the situation at Aitape, 
wanted the Japanese to be met and fought 
to a decision as far on the east flank as pos- 
sible. Previously, Generals Hall and Gill had 
assumed that the covering force might be 
gradually forced back from the Driniumor, 
but now General Hall ordered the force to 
retreat only in the face of overwhelming 
pressure. The 112th Cavalry had been re- 
leased to General Martin's control to aid in 
the execution of this new mission, and the 
2d Battalion, 1 28th Infantry, was also made 
available to him. On 29 June the infantry 
battalion took over about 3,000 yards of the 
Driniumor line between the 1st Battalion, 
128th Infantry, and the 3d Battalion, 127th 
Infantry. Close artillery support for the cov- 
ering force was provided by the 1 20th and 
129th Field Artillery Battalions, which em- 
placed their 105-mm. howitzers near An- 
amo. Company B, 63 2d Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, moved forward to the mouth of 
the Driniumor at the same time. All units 
reconnoitered routes of withdrawal back to 
the next delaying position, the Koronal 
Creek-X-ray River line, and planned de- 
fenses along that line so that in case with- 
drawal became necessary, confusion would 
be minimized. General Martin Issued orders 
that no unit was to leave the Driniumor 
line without his instructions. 23 

Gathering Combat Intelligence 

General Hall had strengthened the Drini- 
umor line in the expectation that the 20th 
Division would attack on or about 29 June. 
But there was no attack on that date. It was 
therefore decided that the information upon 
which the expectation was based had been 

23 PTF G-3 Jnl, 27 Jun-3 Jul 44; Martin Com- 
ments, pp. 4-6. 



incorrectly interpreted. If so, greater cre- 
dence had to be placed on conflicting 
evidence from radio intercepts and captured 
documents indicating that the 18th Army 
was to attack on 1 July. This interpretation 
was given some corroboration when a pris- 
oner captured on 30 June divulged that the 
20th Division was planning to move against 
the Driniumor line between 1 and 10 July. 24 

Reconnaissance in Force Eastward 

General Hall, in an attempt to locate the 
20th Division, ordered the Persecution 
Covering Force to send strong patrols east of 
the Driniumor to the Harech River. A few 
patrols, moving along the coast, got almost 
as far as Yakamul, but so efficient had Jap- 
anese counterreconnaissance operations be- 
come that this was as close as any Allied 
patrols came to the Harech River during the 
period 30 June through 10 July. In the 
southern sector of the Driniumor line patrols 
confirmed previous reports that the Japa- 
nese maintained a counterreconnaissance 
screen along Niumen Creek. Here Japanese 
units were digging in and holding wherever 
and whenever patrol contacts were made. 
These enemy groups were not large, how- 
ever, nor did the Japanese patrols encoun- 
tered in the Yakamul area appear to be 
particularly strong. All American patrol 
efforts failed to disclose any evidence of 
large, organized Japanese units or move- 
ments. Yet both the task force and Alamo 
Force were sure that at least two regiments 
of the 20th Division and elements of the 



24 Alamo Force, G-2 Ests oi Enemy Sit, Aitape, 
30 Jun and 1 Jul 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
30 Jun-3 Jul 44; Rads, PTF to Alamo, AE-1948, 
AE-1953, and AE-1957, 30 Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Hollandia, 30 Jun-3 Jul 44; Rad, GHQ SWPA 
to Alamo Adv Hq, C-14133, 24 Jun 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 20-25 Jun 44. 



138 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



41st Division were located somewhere in the 
area between the Harech and Driniumor 
Rivers. 25 

The fact that no large enemy units could 
be located east of the Driniumor caused 
considerable worry at Alamo Force head- 
quarters, and General Krueger was unhap- 
pily aware that the development of the 
situation in front of the Persecution Cov- 
ering Force was being left to the volition of 
the Japanese. It is also possible that he 
wished to hurry the battle he knew was im- 
pending at Aitape in order that some of the 
forces there could be freed for operations 
farther westward once the Japanese attack 
had been turned back. Whatever the case, 
on 8 July he instructed General Hall to seize 
the initiative by sending a strong reconnais- 
sance in force across the Driniumor to ascer- 
tain the enemy's intentions and disposi- 
tions. 26 

These instructions got a cool reception at 
the headquarters of the Persecution Task 
and Covering Forces. General Hall had 
planned to send at least two battalions of 
the 124th Infantry on an amphibious en- 
veloping movement down the coast to Nya- 
parake to land in the rear of the 20th 
Division. General Martin was deeply dis- 
turbed when he learned that the reconnais- 
sance units would have to be taken from the 
Driniumor line, which he already considered 
inadequately manned to meet the expected 
Japanese attack. Although he preferred the 
amphibious plan to the overland movement, 
General Hall could not argue the point with 

25 PTF G-3 Jnls, 4-8 and 8-11 Jul 44; Rads, 
PTF to Alamo, 6 and 7 Jul 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Hollandia, 4-9 Jul 44. 

M Interv, author with Gen Hall, ex-Comdr PTF 
and XI Corps, 27 Mar 47, copy in OCMH files; 
Martin Comments, pp. 6-7; Rad, Alamo to PTF, 
WH-1120, 8 Jul 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 
4-9 Jun 44. 



Alamo Force and, by the same token, Gen- 
eral Martin, realizing that General Hall was 
under pressure from higher headquarters, 
chose not to argue with his immediate su- 
perior. General Hall postponed the 124th 
Infantry's operation until 13 July, and he 
ordered General Martin to begin the recon- 
naissance in force on the morning of 10 
July." 

General Hall now had at his disposal 
fifteen infantry battalions and two under- 
strength, dismounted cavalry squadrons. 
Three infantry battalions of the 3 2d Divi- 
sion and the two cavalry units were assigned 
to General Martin's Persecution Covering 
Force. To accomplish his primary mission — 
defense of the Tadji strips — General Hall 
felt it necessary to hold at least six infantry 
battalions of the 3 2d Division near the air- 
fields. The three battalions of the 1 24th In- 
fantry (which had arrived in echelons at 
Blue Beach beginning on 2 July) he decided 
to hold out of action temporarily either as 
a reserve or, when possible, to execute the 
amphibious envelopment already planned. 
Having thus committed the 1 24th Infantry 
and six battalions of the 32 d Division to 
stations in the Tadji— Blue Beach area, Gen- 
eral Hall had no choice but to take the 
reconnaissance in force units from General 
Martin's Driniumor River troops. By this 
action, the Persecution Covering Force's 
defenses were weakened along the very line 
where the Japanese were first expected to 
strike. 28 

" Interv, author with Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47; Mar- 
tin Comments, p. 7; Ltr, Gen Hall to Gen Ward, 
29 Nov 50, in OCMH files; PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 
44; 124th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-3. 

" Interv, author with Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47 ; Mar- 
tin Comments, p. 8 ; 1 24th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 
1-3. Throughout the Aitape operation infantry- 
units were disposed by battalion, often in ad hoc 
organizations. Regimental cannon companies were 
often employed for guard or labor duties at the air- 
fields or Blue Beach. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



139 



For the reconnaissance in force eastward, 
General Martin chose the 1st Battalion, 
128th Infantry, and the 2d Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry. The infantry was to advance 
along the coast and the cavalry overland 
from Afua. The maneuver was to be carried 
out in an aggressive manner. Minor opposi- 
tion was not to slow the reconnaissance, and 
the forces were to push rapidly eastward to 
the Harech River. Once on the Harech, the 
two units were to consolidate, patrol to the 
south and east, and prepare for further 
advances upon orders from General Hall. 
Units remaining along the Driniumor were 
to send out patrols to their respective fronts 
in the area between the reconnaissance units 
in order to locate any Japanese forces in that 
area. 29 

The reconnaissance started about 0730 
on 10 July as the 1st Battalion, 128th In- 
fantry, Company B leading, waded across 
the mouth of the Driniumor. Progress down 
the coast was rapid and uneventful until 
1 000 when, at a point about three miles east 
of the Driniumor, the leading elements were 
held up by a Japanese unit estimated to be 
a company in strength, which was dug in 
along the coastal trail. The infantry could 
not take the enemy position by assault, and 
artillery support from the 105-mm. how- 
itzers at Anamo was requested. This fire, 
quickly and accurately delivered, killed 
some Japanese and scattered the rest. Com- 
pany B resumed the advance but was 
stopped again at enemy positions on the 
banks of a small stream 300 yards farther 
east. This time one artillery concentration 
failed to dislodge the Japanese and, finding 

13 PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44; Martin Comments, 
pp. 8-9; Rad, PTF to PCF, 9 Jul 44, copy in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 10-12 Jul 44; Rads, PTF to 
Alamo, AE-1053 and AE-1200, 9 Jul 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnls Hollandia, 4-9 and 10-12 Jul 44, re- 
spectively. 



it impossible to outflank the enemy defenses, 
the forward infantry units were disengaged 
while a second concentration was brought 
down on the enemy positions. 

After the artillery fired, Company B con- 
tinued the advance until 1745, by which 
time it had reached a point less than a mile 
west of Yakamul. In terrain that afforded 
good positions for night defenses, the com- 
pany dug in, while the rest of the battalion 
established a perimeter running westward 
along the coastal trail. Not more than fifty 
Japanese had actually been seen during the 
day. Casualties for the 1st Battalion were 
five killed and eight wounded. 30 

At the southern end of the Driniumor line 
the 2d Squadron, 1 12th Cavalry, right arm 
of the reconnaissance in force, delayed its 
departure until the 1st Squadron moved up 
to the Driniumor from the X-ray and did 
not leave Afua until 1000. The 2d Squadron 
did not follow any trail but, having been 
ordered to avoid contact with the enemy 
during the first part of the movement east- 
ward, cut its way through heavy jungle over 
alternately hilly and swampy terrain. The 
nature of the terrain slowed progress so 
much that at 1445, when the advance was 
halted for the night, the squadron was not 
more than a mile east of the Driniumor. No 
contact with enemy forces had been made 
during the day. 31 

39 PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44; 1st Bn 128th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 
Jul 44. The battalion's casualty figures are from the 
battalion journal and do not agree with other 
sources. 

31 1 12th Gav Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 5-9 ; PTF G-3 
Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44; interv, author with Col Hooper, 
25 Mar 48; Martin Comments, p. 11. The records 
state that the squadron advanced one and three- 
fourths miles during the day, but the figure used in 
the text is that provided by Colonel Hooper. Orders 
to the squadron to avoid contact were apparently 
given verbally, presumably by the regimental com- 
mander, and do not appear in the records. 



140 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



General Hall was not satisfied with the 
progress the two arms of the reconnaissance 
had made during the day. He was especially 
disappointed in the 1st Battalion, 128th 
Infantry, which, he felt, should have been 
able to move farther eastward. Both the 
infantry and cavalry units were ordered to 
resume the advance eastward in a more 
aggressive manner on the morrow. Further 
efforts were to be made by both units to 
maintain contact with forces back on the 
Driniumor. The 2d Squadron, 112th Cav- 
alry, had been unable to maintain contact, 
either physically or by radio, with regimen- 
tal headquarters. 32 

Redispositions Along the Driniumor 

Back on the Driniumor sweepi ng changes 



in dispositions had taken place. 33 (Map 5) 
The 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, had to 
assume responsibility for the positions va- 
cated by the 1st Battalion. The 2d Battal- 
ion's sector now extended from, the mouth 
of the Driniumor to the junction of the 
Anamo-Afua trail with the river bank. This 
was a straight-line distance of about 5,000 
yards, but configurations of the Driniumor's 
west bank made it over 6,000 yards (almost 
three and a half miles ) on the ground. 

Company F, 128th Infantry, was on the 
left of the 2d Battalion guarding the west 
bank from the mouth inland about 3,900 
yards or over two miles. The northern por- 
tion of the company zone was very well 
organized, having been developed by vari- 
ous units since the middle of May, but 



" PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44. 

** Information in this subsection is from : PTF G-3 
Jnl, 8-1 1 Jul 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 9-12 Jul 44; Interv, 
author with Gapt Lowry, Apr 47; 3d Bn 127th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 
Jul 44. 



positions in the southern quarter of the 
sector had not been completed. To the right 
of Company F was Company E, in position 
along a front of 1,250 yards. South of Com- 
pany E, tying its right flank into the left of 
the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, was 
Company G, spread over a front of about 
1,000 yards. Company G's machine gun 
positions and riflemen's foxholes were closer 
together — about sixty to seventy-five yards 
apart — than those of the other 2d Battalion 
companies. The company also had some low 
barbed wire strung in front of its position. 
Company E had little or no wire and its 
strong points were about ninety yards apart. 
Company G's lines were shortened about 
100 yards late in the afternoon when a rifle 
platoon of the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, 
assumed responsibility for that much of the 
company's area. 

By nightfall all the riflemen of the 2d 
Battalion, 128th Infantry, were in the new 
defensive positions. The heavy machine 
guns of Company H were disposed along 
the bank of the river between infantry strong 
points (bunkers or groups of foxholes) , their 
lines of fire tied in with those of the rifle 
companies' light machine guns and auto- 
matic rifles (BAR's) . Company H's 81-mm. 
mortars were emplaced about 200 yards 
west of the river and were registered in on 
area targets along the bed and the east bank 
of the Driniumor. The 60-mm. mortars of 
the three rifle companies had targets over- 
lapping those of the larger weapons. The 
forward battalion command post was about 
800 yards west of the Driniumor, behind the 
center of Company E's sector. The remain- 
der of the battalion headquarters, together 
with a tank destroyer platoon, was located 
on the coast just west of the river's mouth. 
The battalion had no reserve which it could 
move to meet a Japanese attack. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



141 




South of the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, 
the 3d Battalion of the 1 27th Infantry had a 
sector about 2,500 yards or almost a mile 
and a half long. Company I was on the left, 
with every available man in position along 
1,400 yards of curving river bank. Strong 
points were about 100 yards apart and the 
company had no protecting wire. Company 
K, with a nearly straight stretch of bank 



about 1,100 yards in length to hold, was on 
the right of Company I. The dispositions of 
Company M's heavy weapons were similar 
to those of Company H, 128th Infantry. 
Company L of the 127th, which had sent 
many patrols east of the Driniumor during 
the day and which had lent one of its rifle 
platoons to Company G, 128th Infantry, 
was not on the line. Instead, the unit 




DRINIUMOR RIVER, in area held by the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



143 



guarded the battalion command post, which 
was situated about 700 yards west of the 
Driniumor behind Company K. 

The 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry, south 
of the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, was re- 
sponsible for about 3,000 yards of the Dri- 
niumor line. This distance was divided 
about equally between Troop B on the left 
(tying into the lines of Company K, 127th 
Infantry) and Troop A on the right. The 
line extended to a point about 500 yards 
south of Afua, where Troop C took up sup- 
port positions. Troop C did not place many 
men along the river but concentrated at 
Afua to refuse the south flank of the Perse- 
cution Covering Force and to provide a 
reserve for the 112th Cavalry. Weapons 
Troop's heavy machine guns were disposed 
for the most part in the sectors of Troops A 
and B. Headquarters of the 1 1 2th Cavalry 
and General Cunningham's command post 
were situated about 200 yards west of the 
Driniumor behind Troop B. A small rear 
echelon group of the 112th Cavalry re- 
mained on the X-ray River at the Afua— 
Palauru trail crossing to protect the overland 
line of communications back to Blue Beach. 

Along the coast west of the Driniumor, at 
Anamo, Anopapi, and Tiver, were located 
field artillery units, tank destroyers, and the 
headquarters installations of the Persecu- 
tion Covering Force. 34 Communications 
from these units to those on the Driniumor 
were carried out for the most part by radio, 
although some telephone wire was used. 
Units along the river communicated with 
each other by means of sound-powered tele- 
phone. 

M General Martin's headquarters was at this time 
made up of men from Headquarters, 1 28th Infantry, 
the remainder of which headquarters was controlling 
the 128th Infantry (less two battalions) at the Tadji 
main line of resistance. Martin Comments, p. 11. 



Intelligence, 10 July 

Many bits of information concerning the 
intentions of the 18th Army were now avail- 
able to the Persecution Task Force. Cor- 
roborating evidence for the idea that an 
attack might take place on 10 July was 
secured that day when the 1st Battalion, 
1 28th Infantry, captured a member of the 
237th Infantry, 41st Division. This prisoner 
divulged to interrogators in the forward area 
that the Japanese attack would come that 
night, but back at task force headquarters, 
where final interrogations were made, his 
information was evaluated as indicating the 
assault would be made within the next day 
or two. The prisoner believed that the at- 
tack was to have two axes, one along the 
coast and the other across the Driniumor 
about midway between Afua and the river's 
mouth. 35 

In addition to the foregoing information, 
the units remaining on the Driniumor re- 
ported increasing enemy activity east of that 
river during the 10th. Japanese movements 
seemed especially intensified in the zone pa- 
trolled by the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry. 
One battalion patrol, returning to the 
Driniumor on 1 July after three days along 
Niumen Creek, reported having seen at least 
two large groups of Japanese, one about 
fifty-five strong, along the east bank of the 
Niumen. These troops appeared to have 
been moving in a purposeful manner along 
freshly cut trails and were said to have been 
in good condition, well clothed, and strongly 
armed. Another patrol of the same battalion 
worked its way east of the Niumen on the 
morning of 10 July and discovered a re- 

"Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1339, 10 Jul 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 10-11 Jul 44; 3 2d Div 
G-2 Rpt 11, 10 Jul 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 
44; Martin Comments, pp. 10-11. 



144 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



cently established Japanese bivouac area, 
capable of holding about sixty-five troops. 
On its way back to the Driniumor, this pa- 
trol ambushed two small, well-armed parties 
of Japanese only 700 yards east of the 3d 
Battalion's lines. 30 

Another patrol, moving east in the north- 
ern sector of the 3d Battalion zone, encoun- 
tered two groups of Japanese on the west 
bank of the Niumen. These two parties, 
both of platoon size and well armed, were 
moving rapidly south along new trails. The 
American patrol saw only a few more Japa- 
nese during the day but discovered many 
signs of heavy enemy movement between 
the Niumen and Driniumor. The patrol 
leader, an unusually imperturbable sergeant 
of Company I, 1 27th Infantry, who had had 
extensive patrol experience, was greatly ex- 
cited by these signs of Japanese activity. 
Although his patrol had not actually seen 
more than fifty enemy soldiers, the sergeant 
felt that a strong attack on the lines of Com- 
pany I, 127th Infantry, or Company G, 
1 28th Infantry, was imminent. 37 

On the basis of this and other patrol 
reports Lt. Col. Edward Bloch, 3d Battalion 
commander, alerted his force to expect a 
Japanese attack during the night. The ser- 
geant's information and conclusions also 
prompted Colonel Bloch to assign a rifle 
platoon of his reserve company, L, to Com- 
pany G, 128th Infantry, on his left flank. 
There is no evidence that Colonel Bloch 
informed higher headquarters of his actions 
and there is no indication that the Company 
I patrol sightings were reported to an eche- 
lon higher than General Cunningham's 
headquarters. 38 

38 3d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; PTF 
G-3 Jnl, 8-1 1 Jul 44. 

s ' Interv, author with Gapt Lowry, Apr 47. 

33 3d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun^25 Aug 44; PGF 



North of the 3d Battalion, 127th Infan- 
try, patrols of the 2d Battalion, 128th In- 
fantry, reported only one unusual contact 
during the 1 0th. A party from Company G, 
operating near Niumen Creek, encountered 
a combat patrol of twenty Japanese. A run- 
ning fire between the two groups ensued, 
and the American patrol was forced back to 
the Driniumor. A report of this action was 
sent to regimental headquarters, but there 
is no evidence that it was relayed to any 
higher echelon of the task force. 39 

In the zone of the 1 1 2th Cavalry, a patrol 
from the 1st Squadron, moving east along 
a line parallel to and north of the 2d Squad- 
ron, surprised a party of ten Japanese about 
1,200 yards east of Afua. These enemy 
troops, who were armed with at least one 
machine gun, retired to prepkred defenses 
after a sharp skirmish. The American patrol 
leader estimated that there were at least 
forty Japanese, all well armed, milling 
around in the same vicinity. This informa- 
tion reached task force headquarters late in 
the afternoon. 40 

Despite the fact that cumulative intelli- 
gence now presented strong evidence that a 
major Japanese attack was about to be 
launched against the Driniumor River line, 
the G-2 Section of Headquarters, Persecu- 
tion Task Force, apparently did not believe 
that such an attack was imminent. Some 
sort of attack was expected at an indefinite 
future date^ but the Persecution Task 
Force daily intelligence report for 10 July, 
published about 1800 that day, gave little 

G-3 Jnl, 9-12 Jul 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44; 
112th Cav Sum of Msgs, 1 Jul-29 Aug 44. 

35 2d Bn 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 128th 
Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 Jul 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 9-12 Jul 
44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44. 

M 112th Cav Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 5; 112th Cav 
Sum of Msgs, 1 Jul-29 Aug 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 
Jul 44. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



145 



indication that an immediate Japanese as- 
sault could be expected : 

Westward movement of strong enemy pa- 
trols including intense activity just E [east] of 
NIUMEN CREEK indicates possible strong 
outposts to cover assembly of main body in 
preparation for attack. 41 

At Persecution Covering Force head- 
quarters the prevailing opinion was more 
apprehensive. General Martin was con- 
cerned about the possibility of a Japanese 
attack during the night of 10-11 July, and 
he was worried over the disposition of the 
forces along the Driniumor, which had been 
seriously weakened by the movement east- 
ward of the reconnaissance-in-force units. 
What the attitude of most of the rest of the 
staff officers and unit commanders of the 
Persecution Task and Covering Forces 
was is unknown, although General Martin 
had warned the Driniumor River units to 
be on the alert and Colonel Bloch of the 3d 
Battalion, 127th Infantry, certainly ex- 
pected some action during the night. 43 

Back at task force headquarters, General 
Hall had little choice but to accept his G-2's 
estimate at face value. Although he had 
been expecting a Japanese attack ever since 
5 July, he had little or no reason to believe 
that the night of 10—11 July might pass any 
differently than those immediately preced- 
ing it. 43 About 2330 he radioed to General 
Krueger that the situation in the Persecu- 
tion Covering Force's area gave every indi- 
cation that the reconnaissance in force 
eastward could be resumed the next morn- 



« PTF G-2 Daily Rpt 10, 10 Jul 44, in PTF G-3 
Jnl, 8-1 1 Jul 44. 

42 Martin Comments, pp. 10—12; Interv, author 
with Capt Lowry, Apr 47. 

" Interv, author with Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47; Ltr, 
Gen Hall to Gen Ward, 29 Nov 50, no sub, in 
OCMH files. 



ing according to plans. 44 Within fifteen 
minutes after the dispatch of this message, 
it became evident that the situation along 
the Driniumor was anything but well suited 
to the plans of the Persecution Task Force. 

The 18th Army Moves West 

At approximately 2350 Japanese light 
artillery (70-mm. or 75-mm.) began lob- 
bing shells into river bank positions occupied 
by elements of the 2d Battalion, 128th In- 
fantry. This fire, giving the first indication 
that the Japanese had artillery so far west, 
was augmented within a few moments by 
mortar and machine gun fire. At 2355 the 
Japanese artillery became silent. At this 
signal, Japanese infantry began charging 
across the Driniumor into the 2d Battalion's 
defenses. 40 

The 18th Army's Plan 

The 18th Army had been long preparing 
its attack and had developed elaborate plans 
for the "annihilation" of the Persecution 
Task Force. Prior to 22 April the 18th Army 
had started withdrawing westward from 
Wewak, but after the Allied landings at 
Hollandia and Aitape, plans for the future 
employment of the 18th Army had to be 
revised. On 2 May Imperial General Head- 
quarters ordered the 18th Army to bypass 
Hollandia and Aitape and join the 2d Army 
in western New Guinea. General Adachi, 
the 18th Army's commander, had no stom- 
ach for such a maneuver. A previous by- 



"Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1339, 10 Jul 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 10-11 Jul 44. 

16 3d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 
128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 
9-12 Jul 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 8-11 Jul 44; Interv, 
author with Capt Lowry, Apr 47. 



146 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




LT. GEN. HATAZO ADAGHI, 

Commanding General of the Japanese 
18th Army. 



passing withdrawal from the Huon Penin- 
sula in late 1943 and early 1944 had cost 
his army dearly, and movement across the 
Ramu and Sepik Rivers in March and April 
gave promise that his losses of men and 
supplies would increase at an alarming rate. 
He believed that a withdrawal through the 
hinterland to western New Guinea might 
literally decimate the 18th Army and per- 
haps result in much greater loss than would 
an attack on Hollandia or Aitape. On the 
other hand, should it remain immobile at 
Wewak, the 18th Army could contribute 
nothing to the Japanese war effort and 
would lose all vestiges of morale. Terrain 
in the Wewak area was not suited to pro- 
tracted defense nor to farming which could 
make the 18th Army self-sufficient, and sup- 



plies available there could only last until 
September. The only means by which more 
supplies could be obtained, morale kept 
high, and the Japanese war effort furthered, 
was to attack and seize Allied positions. 40 

Although his orders to bypass and with- 
draw to western New Guinea were not 
canceled until mid-May, 47 General Adachi, 
apparently on the basis of earlier broad di- 
rectives from the 2d Area Army,™ had al- 
ready produced an outline plan of an attack 
against the Hollandia-Aitape area. At first 
he considered retaking Hollandia, with the 
seizure of the Aitape region as a necessary 
preliminary step. However, he soon realized 
that the Hollandia venture was overambi- 
tious and he therefore limited the project 
to an attack on Allied forces at Aitape. 

The initial plans for a move against 
Aitape, evolved at 18th Army headquarters 
on 26 April, set 10 June as the date for the 
completion of attack preparations. The as- 
sault units were to be the 20th and 41st 
Divisions supported by the 66th Infantry of 
the 51st Division.™ On or about 1 May the 
first outline plan was supplemented by an 
attack order setting forth details of ob- 
jectives, assignments, and timing. The 20th 

" Hist of Army Section, Imperial CHQ, pp. 111- 
13; 18th Army Opns, III, 28-32, 40-41, 47, 56-64. 

" Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 55-58; Hist of Army 
Section, Imperial CHQ,, p. 113; 18th Army Opns, 
III, 61-64. The date for both the origination and 
cancellation of the orders for the 18th Army to 
withdraw to western New Guinea varies according 
to the source. From internal evidence, the best dates 
seem to be 1 May for the origination and 16 May 
for the cancellation. 

18 Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 48-51, 66-67. On 22 
April the 2d Area Army issued General Adachi a 
broad order to defeat promptly the Allied forces 
which had landed at Aitape and Hollandia. On 
pages 66 and 67 of the source cited here, it is indi- 
cated that General Adachi first suggested an attack 
on Aitape and that the 2d Area Army thereupon 
assigned him the task. 

" 18th Army Opns, III, 56-64, 66-76. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



147 



Division, already ordered to secure the 
Yakamul area and screen the deployment 
of the rest of the 18th Army, was now in- 
structed to soften all Allied resistance east 
of the Nigia River by the end of June. It 
appears that General Adachi believed the 
Persecution Task Force's main line of re- 
sistance to be located along the Nigia, and 
there are indications that as early as the first 
week of May he thought that the first strong 
Allied defensive positions would be encount- 
ered along the Driniumor River. 

After securing the ground west to the 
Nigia River, the 20th Division was to throw 
its strength against the Nigia defenses while 
the 41st Division, after the 20th had broken 
through the Nigia line, was to move from 
Chinapelli northwest toward the Tadji air- 
fields. The 20th Division's attack was appar- 
ently to be made along a narrow front at 
some point between Chinapelli and the 
mouth of the Nigia. Provision was also 
made for a simultaneous assault along the 
beach to divert Allied attention from the 
main offensive. The date for the assault on 
the supposed main line of resistance of the 
Persecution Task Force was now set for 
10 July. 50 

The first step in mounting the offensive 
against Aitape was to concentrate most of 
the available strength of the 18th Army at 
Wewak. By the end of May over 50,000 
troops of that army had been withdrawn 
across the Ramu and Sepik Rivers and, with 
the exception of the regiments of the 20th 
Division already dispatched toward Aitape, 
were reorganizing at Wewak. 51 By no means 
were all the troops available to General 



K 18th Army Opns, III, 77-80. 

"The strength of the 18th Army at this time is a 
highly debatable point, but 50,000-55,000 for the 
number of men finally moved to Wewak or west- 
ward toward Aitape is probably not far off. 



Adachi trained in ground combat. Many of 
them were service personnel, others be- 
longed to air force ground units, and some 
were naval troops which had recently passed 
to the control of the 18th Army. The 20th 
Division's three infantry regiments were 
greatly understrength and probably totaled 
few more than 3,000 trained infantrymen. 
The entire strength of the division, includ- 
ing about 1 ,000 men of the 26th Field Artil- 
lery Regiment and other organic or attached 
troops, was about 6,600 as of the end of 
May. The 41st Division contained less than 
4,000 infantry effectives and a total strength 
of some 10,700. The 66th Infantry of the 
51st Division, also scheduled to participate 
in the attack on Aitape, did not number 
more than 1,000 men. Altogether, General 
Adachi mustered for service in the attack 
about 20,000 troops. Of these, not more 
than 8,000 were trained infantrymen. 
About 2,500 were artillerymen with 70-mm. 
and 75-mm. guns, some 5,000 were to be 
engaged in supply operations in direct sup- 
port of the infantry and artillery, and the 
remaining 4,500 were various types of over- 
head and service personnel who were to 
fight as infantry or engage in normal duties 
such as signal operations, maintenance, 
headquarters work, and the like. Another 
15,000 troops were to be engaged in the 
movement of supplies forward from Wewak 
toward the front. The remaining 20,000 
troops of the 18th Army were to garrison 
the Wewak area or, because of shortages of 
supply and poor physical condition, could 
not be expected to engage in active opera- 
tions. 52 

Considering his supply situation, General 
Adachi was possessed of a rather remark- 
able degree of aplomb when he ordered the 

K 18tk Army Opns, III, 56-61, 156-59; 18th 
Army Opns, Annex A — Statistics, Chart I. 



148 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



18th Army to attack. He considered that 
his men had enough infantry weapons — 
though there were only 13,142 rifles, 726 
machine guns, 561 grenade dischargers, 22 
light mortars, thirty-six 75-mm. mountain 
guns, and forty-two 70-mm. guns — but only 
half enough ammunition. Ammunition for 
the 70-mm. and 75-mm. guns was critically 
short. Communications equipment was 
nearly gone and was not expected to last 
through June. There were serious shortages 
of clothing, blankets, and mosquito nets. 
The last-named deficit promised a high in- 
cidence of malaria, and there was a critical 
shortage of malaria preventives. Other types 
of medical supplies were sufficient except 
those for diarrhea and skin diseases. Food, 
even with half-rations for all troops, would 
not last beyond the end of August. Except 
for a single submarine mission late in May, 
the 18th Army could get no more supplies 
by sea or air, and General Adachi knew it. 
The army had few trucks or barges with 
which it could move the supplies it possessed 
and had little equipment with which to im- 
prove existing roads or build new ones. 
Barge and truck movements westward could 
be made only at the mercy of Allied air and 
sea patrols (mostly Australian aircraft and 
Seventh Fleet PT boats based at Aitape) 
while heavy rains further hampered troop 
and supply movements over all roads and 
trails west from Wewak. 53 

General Adachi soon found that his san- 
guine expectations of clearing the Perse- 
cution Task Force from the area east of the 
Nigia River by the end of June were not to 
be realized. The 20th Division's westward 
movement had been delayed in the series of 
skirmishes along the coast east of the Driniu- 
mor in late May and early June. Further 
delay occurred as inclement weather and 

53 18th Army Opns, III, 56-61, 89-93. 



increasing Allied air and PT activity made 
the 18th Army depend entirely upon hand- 
carry for supply movement. The 20th Divi- 
sion's forward units ran out of supplies in 
mid-June and halted, as did advance ele- 
ments of the 41st Division. The bulk of the 
41st Division, slowly moving westward from 
Wewak, was now assigned the task of hand- 
carrying supplies forward. 54 

Practically the only result of the employ- 
ment of the 41st Division as a service unit 
was a complete loss of troop morale. The 
division's efforts to improve the supply situ- 
ation proved futile, the physical stamina of 
the troops dropped because of unsanitary 
conditions, and the units engaged in supply 
movements found it next to impossible even 
to sustain themselves. Part of the 20th Divi- 
sion had to exist temporarily on less than 
eleven ounces of starchy food per day, and 
some of the forward units subsisted for a 
short while solely on sago palm starch. No 
reserve of supplies could be built up in the 
forward area. 

By mid- June General Adachi realized 
that he was almost certainly going to en- 
counter a strong American force along the 
Driniumor, but even an attack against that 
river line could not be mounted by the end 
of the month. On the 1 9th he therefore post- 
poned efforts to attack the expected defenses 
along the Driniumor until at least 10 July, 
leaving to an undetermined date an attack 
on the Nigia line. 55 

Deployment for the Attack 

By the end of June General Adachi, tak- 
ing a realistic view of the situation, knew 

51 18th Army Opns, III, 89-97; 2d Bn 80th In] 
Field Diary, 31 May— 14 Jul 44, as translated in 3 2d 
Div G-2 files, in ORB AGO collection ; PW interrog 
and trans of enemy docs in PTF and Eastern Sector 
[32d Div] G-2 Jnls, Jun and Jul 44. 

BS 18th Army Opns, III, 89-97. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



149 



JAPANESE PLAN OF ATTACK 




MAP 6 



that his supply problems alone had already 
defeated him. Nevertheless, he felt that he 
could not withdraw without offering battle 
and, exhorting his troops to overcome Al- 
lied material and numerical advantages by 
relying on spirit, he ordered the 20th and 
41st Divisions to attack the Driniumor de- 
fenses on the night of 10-11 July. 50 

The final attack plan was issued at 1500 
on 3 July from the 18th Army's forward 
command post somewhere among the upper 
reaches of the Harech. {Map 6) The focal 

M 18th Army Opns, III, 97-99: MO (18th 
Army's code name for Opns against Aitape) Opn 
Order 5, 3 Jul 44, as cited in 18th Army Opns, III, 
100-101. 



point of the 18th Army's attack was an is- 
land in the Driniumor on the left of the 
sector held by Company E, 128th Infantry, 
an island designated by the Japanese "Ka- 
wanaka Shima" (literally, Middle of the 
River Island) . The main body of the 237th 
Infantry, Col. Masahiko Nara command- 
ing, was to cross the Driniumor at Kawa- 
naka Shima beginning at 2200, 10 July. 
Support fire was to be provided by the 1st 
Battalion, 41st Mountain Artillery, and was 
scheduled to start at 2150. Elements of the 
8th Independent Engineers were to rein- 
force the 237th Infantry. After crossing the 
Driniumor, Colonel Nara's force was to 
move west toward Koronal Creek and 



150 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



northwest to clear Anamo and the other 
Paup villages, on the coast west of the 
Driniumor's mouth. 

South of Kawanaka Shima, on the left of 
the 237th Infantry, the 20th Division was to 
begin its attack at 2300, under cover of 
support fire from the 26th Field Artillery. 
The 20th Division's units were divided into 
two groups. The Right Flank Unit, under 
Col. Tokutaro Ide and comprising the 80th 
Infantry, with attached engineers, artillery, 
and medical personnel, was to line up across 
the river from the right of Company E, 
1 28th Infantry. Also operating under Colo- 
nel Ide was the Yamashita Battalion, which, 
though positive identification cannot be 
made, was probably the 1st Battalion, 237th 
Infantry. Below Colonel Ide's command 
and opposite Company G, 128th Infantry, 
was the Left Flank Unit, under Maj. Gen. 
Sadahiko Miyake, Infantry Group com- 
mander of the 20th Division. General 
Miyake's force consisted of the 78th Infan- 
try (under Col. Matsujiro Matsumoto) and 
attached engineers, artillery, and medical 
units. After forcing a way across the 
Driniumor, the Right Flank Unit was to 
move directly overland to Chinapelli, while 
the Left Flank Unit was to seize and clear 
the Afua area and move on to Chinapelli 
over the Afua-Palauru trail. 

There was a fourth Japanese assault unit, 
the Coastal Attack Force, under Maj. 
Iwataro Hoshino, the commanding officer 
of the 1st Battalion, 41st Mountain Artil- 
lery. Major Hoshino's group comprised the 
headquarters and the 1st Battery of his bat- 
talion; a machine gun section of the 6th 
Company, 237th Infantry; and the Regi- 
mental Gun Company, 237th Infantry. The 
Coastal Attack Force (the unit which had 
delayed the advance of the 1st Battalion, 
128th Infantry, along the coast on 10 July) 



was to co-operate with the attack of the 
237th Infantry and pin down with artillery 
fire the Allied units located on the coast east 
and west of the Driniumor's mouth. 

Assuming the success of the initial attack 
on the Driniumor line, the Japanese assault 
units were to prepare to drive on the Tadji 
airstrips. The 237th Infantrywas responsible 
for initial reconnaissance of Allied defenses 
expected to be encountered along the Nigia 
River, while the 20th Division was to re- 
group at Chinapelli. The 66th Infantry, 
51st Division, was to move forward as 
quickly as possible after the attack on the 
Driniumor line, and, bypassing the Tadji 
area to the south, was to strike the Allied 
main line of resistance from the Kapoam 
villages, southwest of the airfields. 57 

During 10 July the two assault echelons 
of the 20th Division moved slowly into posi- 
tion. Part of the 78th Infantry got into an 
area allocated to the 80th, causing consid- 
erable confusion and probably accounting 
for the movements of Japanese troops in 
various directions as observed by Persecu- 
tion Covering Force patrols during the day. 

"The foregoing plan is reconstructed from: MO 
Opn Order 5, 3 Jul 44, and 10, 15, and 16, 10 Jul 
44, as cited in 18th Army Opns, III, 100-106; 18th 
Army Opns, III, 107-09; 2d Bn 80th Inf Field 
Diary, 31 May— 14 Jul 44; PW interrog and trans 
of enemy docs in PTF and Eastern Sector [3 2d Inf 
Div] G-2 Jnls, Jul and Aug 44. A Yamashita Bat- 
talion was mentioned in radio intercepts, captured 
documents, and by prisoners, and one source iden- 
tifies it as the 2d Battalion, 79th Infantry, but ac- 
cording to available Japanese documents, the latter 
unit was not in the forward area on 10 July. The 
1st Battalion, 237th Infantry, had been operating 
under 20th Division control in the forward area for 
some time, and since the rest of the 41st Division 
was late getting up to the Driniumor, may have re- 
mained under the 20th for the attack. In any case, 
Yamashita Battalion disappears from enemy sources 
dated after 10 July. It may have been wiped out or, 
as seems most likely, if it was the 1st Battalion, 237th 
Infantry, it rejoined its parent unit, which was west 
of the Driniumor. 



DEPLOYMENT FOR BATTLE 



151 



Because of communications difficulties, the 
237th Infantry and the 41st Mountain Ar- 
tillery were not alerted for the attack until 
7 July. The units were delayed further in 
last-minute attempts to secure supplies and, 
as a result, did not start moving forward to 
the line of departure until 9 July. Their final 
attack orders were not issued until the aft- 
ernoon of the 10th, and the 237 th Infantry's 



rear elements were just moving into line 
along the Driniumor when the guns of the 
supporting artillery opened fire at the sched- 
uled hour, 2350. 58 



"18th Army Opns, III, 109-14. Japanese ac- 
counts of action along the Driniumor use times two 
hours earlier than those employed by Allied docu- 
ments. This discrepancy is probably due to differ- 
ences in the time zones being used by the two forces. 



CHAPTER VII 



The Battle of the Driniumor 
Phase I: The 18th Army Attacks 



Withdrawal of the PERSECUTION 
Covering Force 

Action During the Night 
of 10-11 July 

The first Japanese unit to swing into 
action against the Driniumor defenses of the 
Persecution Covering Force was the 1st 
Battalion, 78th Infantry, which, about 2355, 
charged across the river along a narrow 
front against Company G, 128th Infantry. 1 
(Map 7) The Japanese attacked in two or 
three screaming waves, broadening the front 
after the first assault by throwing in the rest 
of the 78th Infantry and possibly elements 
of the 80th Infantry. Japanese reconnais- 
sance had been good — the attackers knew 
the locations of company and battalion com- 



1 Information in this subsection is based princi- 
pally on: 2d Bn 128th Inf Jul, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44: 
128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 Jul 44; 3d Bn 127th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; PCF G-3 Jnls, 9-12 and 
12-14 Jul 44; PTF G-3 Jnls, 8-11 and 11-15 Jul 
44; Interv, author with Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47; 
Interv, author with Capt Lowry, Apr 47; 18th 
Army Opns, III, 109-14; 2d Bn 80th Inf Field 
Diary, 31 May-14 Jul 44. The narrative after action 
reports of American units for this and most other 
phases of the operations along the Driniumor are 
inadequate and sometimes misleading, and it was 
necessary to reconstruct the action from journals 
and journal files. 



mand posts all along the American de- 
fenses — but not quite good enough. The 
enemy did not know that Company G had 
been reinforced during the afternoon of 10 
July nor, apparently, had he discovered that 
the company's front was protected by low 
barbed wire. 

The attacks of the 78th Infantry were 
thrown back with heavy losses. Machine 
gun and mortar fire from the 2d Battalion, 
1 28th Infantry, accounted for many Japa- 
nese, numbers of whom were caught as they 
tried to cross the barbed wire in front of 
Company G. According to Japanese sources, 
the results of American artillery fire were 
even more disastrous. As soon as the enemy 
attack had begun, the 120th and 129th 
Field Artillery Battalions had started firing 
previously prepared concentrations along 
the bed and east bank of the Driniumor. 
The Japanese units in or near the impact 
areas suffered heavy casualties. The 1st 
Battalion, 78th Infantry, was quickly re- 
duced from 400 to 30 men, principally as a 
result of the American artillery fire, which 
also destroyed large numbers of artillery 
weapons, machine guns, and mortars. 

Late arrival of many units on the line of 
departure across the Driniumor, together 
with confusion among elements of the 78th 
and 80th Infantry Regiments, prevented 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE I8TH ARMY ATTACKS 



153 



JAPANESE ATTACK 
ON DRINIUMOR LINE 

Night, 10-11 July 1944 




MAP 7 



the Japanese from executing their planned 
attack of three regiments abreast. Thus, 
about twenty minutes after the initial attack 
and while righting continued in front of 
Company G, 1 28th Infantry, another enemy 
force struck Company E. This assault prob- 
ably marked the entry of the 80th Infantry's 
main body into the action. Although Com- 
pany E's men were spread thinly over a 



front of 1,250 yards, the initial attack was 
thrown back. But a second wave of attack- 
ers, probably comprising the 237th Infantry 
and heretofore uncommitted elements of 
the Right Flank Unit, began pouring across 
the Driniumor toward Company E at ap- 
proximately 0200. The new attackers over- 
ran the company command post and sur- 
rounded most of the unit's widely separated 



154 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



strong points. Fighting continued in the 
company sector for a little while, but the 
unit could not long withstand the over- 
whelming enemy pressure. Company or- 
ganization and communications broke 
down. Worse still, the troops began to run 
out of ammunition. A general withdrawal 
commenced. 

Company E's headquarters, the 1st Pla- 
toon, and the Weapons Platoon retreated 
northwest. About dawn on 1 1 July they 
moved into the 2d Battalion's command 
post, which had been forced to move 500 
yards northwest of its original position to 
get out of the impact area of Japanese artil- 
lery and mortar fire. About twenty-five men 
of the 2d and 3d Platoons withdrew north to 
Company F's positions, as did a few Com- 
pany H troops who had been manning sup- 
porting weapons in the Company E sector. 
Some Company E men made their way in- 
dependently to the coast up the Anamo- 
Afua trail, and a few stragglers found refuge 
with Company G, to the south. Some Com- 
pany E troops remained hidden in the midst 
of the Japanese for three days. No accurate 
count of the unit's casualties is available, 
but it appears that the company suffered 
about 10 men killed and 20 wounded. Cas- 
ualties had not caused the withdrawal. The 
main factors were lack of ammunition and 
the physical impossibility of holding an ex- 
tended line against the numbers of Japanese 
who pushed across the Driniumor. On its 
immediate front, Company E had probably 
been outnumbered nearly ten to one. 

By 0300 the Japanese had punched a hole 
some 1,300 yards wide in the American 
lines and had physically occupied that area . 
The initial impetus of the enemy attack had 
been spent, and the scene of action quieted 
down for about two hours. Company G took 
this opportunity to restore some of its left 



flank positions while Company F discovered 
and reported to General Martin's headquar- 
ters that Company E had disappeared from 
the river line. All units remaining on the 
Driniumor prepared for further attacks. 
These began on the left of Company G and 
the right of Company F about 0500, and 
continued in Company G's area until after 
dawn. 

This second Japanese outbreak probably 
marked the movement across the Driniumor 
of rear elements of the assault regiments, 
headquarters personnel, medical troops, 
and artillery units. The new action may also 
have entailed movements by the 237th In- 
fantry, which had become confused during 
the initial attack. Reorganization of that 
regiment was no easy task. The Japanese 
were in unfamiliar terrain and Colonel 
Nara, who had lost his way, did not rejoin 
his regiment until 12 July. The two assault 
regiments of the 20th Division had less trou- 
ble once they had crossed the Driniumor. 
By dawn on 1 1 July the remaining men of 
these two units had reassembled on heavily 
forested high ground about 800 yards north- 
west of Company G, 1 28th Infantry. 

Other than the action in the areas of 
Companies E and G, 128th Infantry, there 
had been very little fighting along the 
Driniumor during the night. Company F 
had a few minor skirmishes at its right flank 
positions. Units south of the 128th Infan- 
try's battalion were struck only by stray 
artillery shells or machine gun and rifle fire. 
Much of the night had been moonlit, though 
a tropical ground haze somewhat limited 
visibility. Men of the 3d Battalion, 127th 
Infantry, could see some of the action on 
their left, but the battalion could not leave 
its positions to succor the units on its flank, 
for it had its own defensive missions. Com- 
munications had been disrupted all along 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



155 



the Driniumor during the action, and the 
battalion commander had no way of learn- 
ing the extent of the attack nor, for some 
time, of finding out where or when to move. 
Finally, the battalion could not leave its 
positions without orders from higher head- 
quarters, and such instructions were not 
immediately forthcoming. 

The Decision to Withdraw 

General Martin, of course, knew that the 
Japanese were attacking, and he knew that 
the attack was taking place near the middle 
of the Driniumor line. 2 The covering force 
commander soon learned that the Japanese 
had broken through his Driniumor defenses, 
but he did not know how large was the gap 
in the lines. He had no reserve with which 
he could close the gap, unless he pulled the 
reconnaissance-in-force units back from 
their positions east of the Driniumor. Feel- 
ing that the Japanese had themselves ac- 
complished the principal missions of the 
reconnaissance in force by revealing their 
locations and intentions, General Martin 
obtained permission from General Hall to 
pull back to the Driniumor the 1 st Battalion, 
1 28th Infantry, and the 2d Squadron, 1 1 2th 
Cavalry. Since it would take some time for 
the two units to move west, he determined 
to wait until dawn before making any at- 
tempt to restore the Driniumor line. 

The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, re- 
ceived its withdrawal orders from General 
Martin about 0135. Rapidly assembling 
from its night defensive dispositions, the 
battalion started westward at 0200. Because 



5 This subsection is based on: 1st Bn 128th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 
Jul 44; 1 12th Cav Sum of Msgs, 1-29 Jul 44; PTF 
G-3 Jnls, 8-1 1 and 1 1-15 Jul 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 9- 
12 Jul 44; Martin Comments, pp. 12-15; 18th 
Army Opns, III, 111—14. 



of communications difficulties, the 2d 
Squadron, 112th Cavalry, did not receive 
the word until 0800, 1 1 July. After a forced 
march along the coast, the 128th Infantry's 
unit reached Anamo about 0530, just as 
dawn was breaking. General Martin or- 
dered the battalion to counterattack down 
the Anamo-Afua trail to restore the 2d 
Battalion's lines. 

Movement south started at 0700, and 
there was no opposition for the first 1,500 
yards. But about 1030 machine guns 
manned by elements of the 237th Infantry 
opened fire on the 1st Battalion's leading 
platoon from positions on the south bank 
of a small stream which cut the trail. The 
terrain and enemy small arms fire made it 
impossible to attempt wide, rapid flanking 
maneuvers, and the advance platoons soon 
found themselves in an ambush. A few 
Japanese, who had been in the area at least 
since dawn, threatened to cut the leading 
company's line of communications^ The 
unit withdrew from its exposed salient just 
as Japanese infantry attacked out of the 
jungle on both sides of the trail and up the 
stream bed from the southwest. Realizing 
that the trail was held by a strong Japanese 
force, the intentions of which were un- 
known, General Martin ordered the entire 
1st Battalion back to Tiver. The abortive 
action cost the unit 13 men wounded, 3 
killed, and 3 missing. 3 

Even before the 1st Battalion's attack had 
been launched, General Martin had be- 
lieved that strong Japanese forces were 
across the Driniumor, and the opposition 
encountered by the 1st Battalion convinced 
him that his forward dispositions were not 

3 For covering the withdrawal of the leading 
platoon and helping to bring out wounded, Staff 
Sgt. Gerald L. Endl of Company C was awarded 
the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sergeant Endl 
was himself killed bringing out one of the wounded. 



156 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



favorable for further counterattack meas- 
ures. The enemy's Kawanaka Shima salient 
threatened the rear of American units still 
on the Driniumor and, worse still, provided 
the enemy force with an opportunity to 
push directly westward, almost unmolested, 
to the Tadji strips. Since his mission was to 
delay any such westward movements, Gen- 
eral Martin decided to remove the rest of 
his forces from the Driniumor quickly and 
to reorganize along the second delaying po- 
sition at the X-ray River-Koronal Creek 
line, there to await the Japanese and pre- 
pare for further counterattacks. 

Withdrawal to the Second 
Delaying Position 

The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, quickly 
withdrew up the Anamo trail and moved 
west along the coast to Tiver, from which 
village it pushed a new defense line about 
1,500 yards south along the west bank of 
Koronal Creek. 4 Company F, 128th Infan- 
try, which held its positions near the mouth 
of the Driniumor until the 1st Battalion 
started withdrawing up the Anamo trail, 
was assigned part of the new line. Other ele- 
ments of the 2d Battalion, as they straggled 
into Tiver during the 1 1th, strengthened the 
1st Battalion's lines. 

The 2d Squadron, 112th Cavalry, ar- 
rived back at Afua, at the southern end of 

4 Information in this subsection is from : PTF G-3 
Jnl, 11-15 Jul 44; PFC G-3 Jnl, 9-12 Jul 44; 1st 
Bn 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 128th 
Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 1 12th Cav Opns and Int 
Diary Aitape; 112th Cav Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 6 ; 
1 1 2th Cav, Sum of Msgs, 1-29 Jul 44 ; Interv, author 
with Col Hooppr, 25 Mar 47; Interv, author with 
Gen Cunningham, Apr 47 : Interv, author with Capt 
Lowry, Apr 47; Martin Comments, pp. 14-15; 3d 
Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; MO Opn 
Orders 5, 3 Jul 44, and 15 and 16, 10 Jul 44, in 18th 
Army Opns, III, 100-106; 18th Army Opns, III, 
109-11. 



the Driniumor line, shortly after 1000 on 
the 11th. Less than an hour later General 
Martin alerted General Cunningham, the 
commander of the 112th Cavalry Regi- 
mental Combat Team, to prepare the 1 1 2th 
Cavalry and the 3d Battalion, 127th Infan- 
try, for movement back to the second delay- 
ing line. The movement was scheduled to 
start at 1500, but General Cunningham 
requested and received permission to with- 
draw in two echelons. The first, comprising 
regimental and combat team headquarters 
and the 1st Squadron, was to begin moving 
as soon as possible. The second echelon was 
to comprise the 2d Squadron and the 3d 
Battalion, 127th Infantry. 

The first echelon cleared Afua about 
1 130 and closed on the X-ray River at the 
Afua-Palauru trail crossing about four 
hours later. The 2d Squadron started west 
over the trail about 1500, by which time a 
rainstorm had turned the track into a quag- 
mire. Leading elements of the 2d Squadron 
took more than five hours to reach the X-ray, 
and the regimental Weapons Troop did not 
arrive at the stream until 2330. Troup F re- 
mained on the trail about midway between 
Afua and the X-ray and did not join the rest 
of the regiment until 0730 on the 1 2th. 

Once on the X-ray, the cavalry units 
spread themselves over their portion of the 
second delaying line. This sector, some 4,500 
yards long, ran along the west bank of the 
river northward from a point nearly 1,500 
yards south of the trail-crossing to a swamp 
where the X-ray divided to form Akanai 
and Koronal Creeks. This long defense line 
could not be fully manned because a change 
in plans had delayed the arrival of the 3d 
Battalion, 127th Infantry, at the X-ray. 
Any concerted Japanese attack along the 
Afua-Palauru trail could probably have 
driven the 112th Cavalry still farther west, 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



157 



but the night of 11-12 July proved quiet 
at the X-ray. 

While the main body of the regiment was 
withdrawing, small patrols were sent east 
of the Driniumor and up the west bank of 
that river south of Afua. A patrol east of 
Afua saw many signs of enemy activity and 
was followed back to the village late in the 
afternoon by a strong party of Japanese 
which, however, did not choose to engage in 
a fire fight. Another patrol, late in the morn- 
ing, had a brush with an enemy party near 
a waterfall of the Driniumor about 2,000 
yards south of Afua. This enemy group 
appeared to be the point of a much larger 
force. About 1500, other patrols reported 
that the Japanese were crossing the river in 
some strength about 500 yards south of 
Afua. It was the opinion at General Cun- 
ningham's headquarters that this enemy 
force, the strength of which was estimated 
as high as 1,200 troops, 5 was a strong 
flanking unit. Efforts were made to delay 
the enemy movement by placing artillery 
fire on the suspected crossing point. Rear 
guard patrols reported at dusk that the 
Japanese forces had moved up to the Afua- 
Palauru trail from the south and were oc- 
cupying the Kwamagnirk area, about one 
and one fourth miles northwest of Afua, 

No Japanese accounts of the action, cap- 
tured documents, nor interrogations of 
prisoners tell of any large enemy force being 
south of Afua on 1 1 July. It is probable that 
the Japanese unit was merely a reconnais- 
sance group probing the south flank of the 
Persecution Covering Force in conjunc- 
tion with action in the center of the 
Driniumor line or in preparation for flank- 

5 This high estimate was made by one of the pa- 
trols and no such figure was relayed to higher head- 
quarters. 



ing movements. Had any large enemy force 
been in the Afua area on the 1 1 th, it would 
undoubtedly have followed the retreating 
1 1 2th Cavalry toward the X-ray River, for 
the Japanese had orders to move on to 
Chinapelli as soon as possible. 

General Cunningham originally planned 
to have the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, 
close to the right on Afua and follow the 
1st Squadron, 1 12th Cavalry, to the X-ray. 
But poor communications between General 
Cunningham's headquarters and the infan- 
try unit, together with infiltration of Japa- 
nese patrols between the infantry and cav- 
alry organizations, prevented execution of 
such a plan. Finally, General Cunningham 
ordered the 3d Battalion to move directly 
overland to the X-ray. By 1530 Colonel 
Bloch had gathered his headquarters and 
the bulk of Companies K, M, and L on high 
ground about 800 yards west of Company 
K's river position and had begun moving 
that group westward. Terrain difficulties, 
aggravated by the rain, forestalled progress 
that night, and at 1845 Colonel Bloch's 
group bivouacked for the night on East 
Branch, Koronal Creek, only one and a half 
miles west of the starting point. The group 
started moving again at 0700 on the 12th 
and about 1 400 that day reached the X-ray 
at a point some 1,000 yards north of the 
Afua-Palauru trail crossing. The group, 
which had met no Japanese on its way west- 
ward, then went into defensive positions on 
the left of the 1 12th Cavalry. 

The remainder of the 3d Battalion, 1 27th 
Infantry, together with Company G, 1 28th 
Infantry (which had been attached to the 
battalion for the purpose of withdrawal) 
and miscellaneous other groups such as field 
artillery forward observer parties, was led 
back to the X-ray by Capt. Leonard Lowry, 



158 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the commanding officer of Company I, 
127th Infantry.* 

Captain Lowry's force, numbering about 
500 men of all ranks, withdrew westward 
overland from Company K's river positions. 
This group, which had to fight its way 
through a Japanese trail block, spent two 
nights in the jungle. The leading elements 
did not reach the X-ray until 0730 on 13 
July, and it was midafternoon before the 
entire force had closed on the river. Then 
Captain Lowry found that the rest of the 
3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, and most of 
the 1 1 2th Cavalry had already started back 
to the Driniumor. His force was instructed 
to rest and regroup along the X-ray and to 
follow the rest of the command to the 
Driniumor on the 14th. 

Restoration of the Driniumor Line 

By morning on 1 2 July the Persecution 
Covering Force was redisposed in positions 
favorable to stopping any further Japanese 
advance. The 112th Cavalry was on the 
X-ray north and south of the Afua-Palauru 
trail crossing and part of the 3d Battalion, 
127th Infantry, was on the cavalry's left. 



' Captain Lowry, an American Indian of Cali- 
fornia's Modoc Tribe, had a heterogeneous force 
under him which comprised : 

Company I, 127th Infantry 

Company G, 128th Infantry 

HMG Platoon, Company M, 127th Infantry 

HMG Platoon, Company H, 128th Infantry 

81 -mm. Mortar Observer Party, Company M, 
127th Infantry 

81 -mm. Mortar Section, Company H, 128th In- 
fantry 

Forward Observer Party, 120th Field Artillery 
Battalion 

Forward Observer Party, 129th Field Artillery 
Battalion 

Ten or twelve stragglers of Companies E and H, 
128th Infantry 



The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, and 
available troops of the 2d Battalion of the 
same regiment were along the west bank 
of Koronal Creek south from Tiver. In the 
center of the new line was a gap almost 
4,000 yards long, but the terrain in this area 
was very swampy, heavily jungled, and im- 
passable for any large body of troops. Dur- 
ing the 12th, patrols maintaining contact 
over this gap encountered only a few enemy 
stragglers. 7 

Preparations for Counterattack 

General Krueger did not believe that the 
withdrawal from the Driniumor had been 
necessary. He felt that the troops at Gen- 
eral Hall's disposal, plus available air and 
naval support, should have enabled the 
Persecution Task Force to halt the Japa- 
nese at the Driniumor. Acting on this as- 
sumption, he ordered General Hall to take 
aggressive action to drive the enemy back 
across the river. 8 

Even before receiving these orders, Gen- 
eral Hall had taken preliminary steps to 
launch a counterattack. He attached the 
124th Infantry (less one battalion) to the 
Persecution Covering Force in prepara- 
tion for a counterofTensive. The regiment 
was to move to Tiver, clear the coast be- 
tween that village and Anamo, and, on the 
morning of the 12th, attack south along 
the Anamo-Afua trail. About the same time 
General Hall ordered General Martin to 
retire no further except before overwhelm- 
ing enemy pressure, and he forbade the 

' PCF G-3 Jnl, 9-12 Jul 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 11-15 
Jul 44; 1st Bn 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 
112th Cav Opns and Int Diary Aitape. 

8 Rads, Alamo to PTF, WF-1545 and WF-1498, 
11 Jul 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 10-12 
Jul 44. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



159 



withdrawal of any unit not in actual contact 
with superior forces. 9 

With the addition of the 124th Infantry 
to the Persecution Covering Force, the 
latter unit would approximate the size of a 
division. To take charge of this enlarged 
force and to give General Martin a rest from 
long duty in the front lines, General Hall 
decided to place General Gill, the comman- 
der of the 3 2d Division and the Eastern Sec- 
tor, in control of the covering force. At the 
same time General Martin took General 
Gill's place as the commander of the East- 
ern Sector. 10 

Taking part of Headquarters, 32d Divi- 
sion, forward with him, General Gill set up 
a new Persecution Covering Force head- 
quarters at Tiver. The covering force he 
now divided into two sections — North Force 
and South Force. General Stark, previously 
in charge of the Western Sector, was placed 
in command of North Force. Units under 
his control were the 1st Battalion, 128th In- 
fantry, and the 1st and 3d Battalions, 124th 
Infantry. South Force was assigned to Gen- 



"Rads, PTF to Alamo, AE-1052 and AE-1512, 
12 Jul 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 1-12 Jul 
44; 124th Inf Jnl, 12 Jul- 10 Aug 44; Ltr, Gen Hall 
to Gen Ward, 29 Nov 50, in OCMH files. 

"Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-1550, 12 Jul 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 10-12 Jul 44; PTF FO 
7, 12 Jul 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 11-15 Jul 44; Martin 
Comments, pp. 16-21 ; Ltr, Gen Hall to Gen Ward, 
29 Nov 50, and Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 2 
Jan 51, no sub, copies of last two in OCMH files. 
The exact terms and chronology of changes incident 
to this change in command later created some con- 
fusion at higher headquarters because the initial 
orders were so phrased as to make it appear that 
General Gill had been relieved of the command of 
the 32d Division. Such, of course, was not the in- 
tent, and on 20 July FO 7 was changed to clarify 
the situation. General Martin remained on as Com- 
mander, Eastern Sector, and Assistant Division 
Commander, 3 2d Division. Some time after the 
Aitape operation, he was promoted to major gen- 
eral and given the command of the 31st Infantry 
Division. 



eral Cunningham, who was to control the 
11 2th Cavalry and the 3d Battalion, 127th 
Infantry. Persecution Covering Force Re- 
serve was the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, 
which was to reorganize at Tiver and hold 
a perimeter around that village. The 1 20th 
Field Artillery Battalion was to support 
South Force, while the 129th and the 149th 
(the latter of the 31st Division) were to 
support North Force. These three battalions 
were equipped with 105-mm. howitzers. 
Their fires would be augmented as necessary 
by the 155-mm. howitzers of the 181st Field 
Artillery Battalion. 11 

General Gill found it expedient to post- 
pone the counterattack. The two battalions 
of the 124th Infantry could not get into 
position in time to start an attack early on 
1 2 July, and the other elements of the Per- 
secution Covering Force could well use an 
extra day for reorganization and resupply. 
General Gill therefore decided to delay the 
124th Infantry's movement in favor of a 
co-ordinated counterattack by the entire 
Persecution Covering Force (with the ex- 
ception of the 2d Battalion, 128th Infan- 
try) at 0800 on 13 July. 

Then the two battalions of the 1 24th In- 
fantry were to clear the Anamo— Afua trail 
south to the point at which that track met 
the Driniumor. The 1st Battalion, 128th 
Infantry (attached to the 124th Infantry), 
was to clear the coast from Anamo to the 
mouth of the Driniumor and then move 
down the west bank of the river and estab- 
lish contact with the 1 24th Infantry. South 

u PCF FO 1, 12 Jul 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 11-15 
Jul 44. General Stark's post as Western Sector com- 
mander was taken over by Brig. Gen. Joseph C. 
Hutchinson of the 31st Division, who had arrived at 
Aitape with the 124th Infantry. South Force was 
also called Baldy Force — a rather uncomplimentary 
reference to the condition of General Cunningham's 
pate. 



Chart 10— The Persecution Task Force: 11 July-21 July 1944 



n-l«J«lv 



W-nltin Sector 
Biij, G*n- 
Alittarvdn N. Sloik, Jr. 



HE ADGU A R f£RS PERSECUTION TASK FQBCE 
(Hndquailtn XI Cor pi) 
Maj Gt a QhjI« P. Kail 



X 





n Sactoi 


3td Injur 




With° 


; h. Gin 



I 

Bri?, G*». C-flf*«M A. Martin 

E 



testis 

i 




14-15 Vv 



Wnftrnr. 5*ctai 
8<ijr. Gtn. 
Ja&tph C Hvhhin 



Uniti 



(HdodqMorlfi* ltd 
Inlgnliy Ditri.iOf.) 
Brij. Gen. 
Ctortntt A. Mamn 



Infantry DWiiwi 
{)«■ tlimcnn miigrttd 
PtrttcuflOfl 
Covering Fetct) 

Moj. Gin, 
Willion. H.Gill 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TAW FORCE 

Ma } G*n Char!.". P Hall 





Norih Fore* 




(HaadquftEltti 




1 *?*rK Infantry) 




e-i-j. Ctn. 


A 


U»ndi. N Siailt, Jr. 


1 



T?B.ti Infantry 
(l#M 4 Jd and 
3d Boltaliom} 




1 



South Fore* 
(Htadquarttn 
HH Cmolty 

j.J.an W. r,»,i* w 

r 




t12ih Comity 
Col. AI«Knndm 

M. Mill«t 



JO IWIOiifl", 



15-1TJWI* 




Eairarn Svcfor 
(Htotfq-faittn tM 
Inlanliy Diriuen} 
B.lu Gtn. 
Clor»nc» A. Martin 



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(Ini «l«i»tnn Ortigntd 
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I TASK FORCE 




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{H eodajgarrtrt 
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3d Battalion, 
l£4rh Infantry 



iMih 

(I tit 3d Battalion) 
Cel. Edword W Stan 



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{l«n Id Barfolion) 



17-81 Julr 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
'CKttgdqwsir.tri XJ Carpi) 
Maj.Gtn. Cho.lwP. Holl 



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(Hiadqinrltn 

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T03d Inlonrry 



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(Htodquatten 35d 
tnlonlry DIvMon) 
Brig. Gon. 
CfaWMM A. Martin 



3Sd WaM.y Oi.iiion 
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Col. Edm.nl 



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1t?lh ln(4nlry 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



161 



Force was to start moving east at 1000 on 
the 13th. It was to attack along the Afua- 
Palauru trail to the Driniumor and restore 
the river line from Afua north to the 1 24th 
Infantry's positions. 12 

Action in the Coastal Sector 

In order to secure a line of departure for 
the 1st Battalion's attack on 13 July, Com- 
pany B, 128th Infantry, moved from Tiver 
to Anamo just before dark on the 12th. 13 At 
0730 on the 13th the rest of the 1st Bat- 
talion, supported by a platoon of Company 
B, 632d Tank Destroyer Battalion, and 
from offshore by fire from LCM's, moved 
out of Tiver toward the east. The 1st Bat- 
talion marched through Anopapi and An- 
amo, passing through Company B, without 
incident. About 1000, Companies A and C 
arrived at Chakila, 1,000 yards east of 
Anamo. On the far side of a small stream 
entering the ocean just east of Chakila, the 
jungle grew almost to the edge of the beach 
and at the stream crossing only one platoon 
could be deployed. The rest of the battalion 
had to follow in narrow column. The lead- 
ing platoon crossed the stream about 1050 
and immediately found itself in the midst of 
a Japanese ambush. 

Major Hoshino's Coastal Attack Force 
had crossed the Driniumor during the night 
of 11-12 July, bringing 70-mm. and 75- 
mm. weapons across the river and setting 

13 PCF G-3 Jnl, 11-15 Jul 44; 124th Inf Jnl, 12 
Jul-10 Aug 44; PCF FO 1, 12 Jul 44; 112th Gav 
Opns and Int Diary Aitape. 

13 The principal source for the operations of the 
1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, described in this sub- 
section is a narrative account of the action written 
by the 1st Battalion S-3 and filed in the 1st Bat- 
talion, 128th Infantry, Journal, 28 June-25 August 
1944. Information on the Japanese side of the story 
is taken principally from 18th Army Operations, 
III, 111-14. 



them up to support an advance by the 237th 
Infantry to the Paup villages and the Nigia 
River. Apparently communications to the 
Coastal Attack Force had broken down, 
and the morning of 13 July found Major 
Hoshino's unit dug in along the coast east 
of Chakila awaiting further orders and pre- 
paring to defend the beach approach to the 
Driniumor. 

The Coastal Attack Force let the leading 
platoon of the 128th Infantry pass through 
its first defenses. As the rest of the advance 
company started to cross the small stream, 
Major Hoshino's men opened up with rifles, 
machine guns, light mortars, and 75-mm. 
howitzers. The American platoon hastily 
retreated into the bed of the small stream, 
where banks five feet high afforded pro- 
tection from the Japanese fire. Another 
platoon deployed along the west bank of the 
creek to establish a base of fire. Tank de- 
stroyers were brought up to the west bank 
and began bombarding the Costal Attack 
Force's positions. One tank destroyer was 
almost immediately damaged by Major 
Hoshino's artillery, the fire from which soon 
became so intense that the tank destroyers 
and LCM support craft were forced to 
retire to the west. 

Artillery counterbattery fire was called 
for, and the 1 29th Field Artillery Battalion 
was quickly successful in putting out of 
action most of Major Hoshino's field pieces. 
The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, then 
resumed its advance behind continuing field 
artillery fire which was placed as close as 
fifty yards in front of the leading troops. 
Two infantry platoons, one each from Com- 
panies A and C, forced a second crossing of 
the creek at 1300. Two tank destroyers fol- 
lowed immediately and, from the beach, 
delivered enfilade fire on positions of the 
Coastal Attack Force at the edge of the 



162 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



jungle. As the rest of the 1st Battalion 
crossed the stream, Major Hoshino and his 
men, having lost their artillery, fled inland. 

Behind an improvised rolling barrage, 
Companies A and C pushed on eastward. 
One tank destroyer moved along the beach 
and another along the coastal track, which 
here ran through the jungle about seventy- 
five yards inland. The two forward com- 
panies reached the mouth of the Driniumor 
about 1800 and the rest of the battalion 
closed on the river shortly thereafter. Com- 
pany A pushed down the west bank of the 
river about 2,000 yards without finding any 
sign of the 1 24th Infantry, which was driv- 
ing south along the Anamo-Afua trail. 
Since it was getting dark, the company set 
up night defenses. Company B moved into 
position on A's right rear to refuse the 
battalion's south flank, and the rest of the 
battalion dug in near the mouth of the 
Driniumor. 

In the course of the day's fighting the 
Coastal Attack Force had lost all its artillery 
and had suffered heavy casualties (the 1st 
Battalion had counted over sixty dead Japa- 
nese during the day) . Additional losses were 
sustained on succeeding days, but Major 
Hoshino and his men were not completely 
removed as an irritant until the night of 
16-17 July, During that night remnants of 
the Coastal Attack Force, about thirty-five 
men strong, attacked North Force and 
124th Infantry command post installations 
at Anamo. At 2300 the group charged out 
of the jungle southwest of the Anamo per- 
imeter. Repulsed by machine gun fire, the 
enemy temporarily disappeared, only to 
reappear at 0300 on 17 July moving west 
against Anamo along the beach. Machine 
gun fire from the American positions broke 
up this second attack, but about ten min- 



utes later the Japanese tried again, this time 
moving on Anamo from the north by wad- 
ing in from the sea. 

Once ashore, Major Hoshino's men broke 
up into small groups, attempting to destroy 
mechanized equipment, automatic weapons 
positions, and communications installations. 
The Coastal Attack Force remnants had ap- 
parently scouted well, for they were reported 
to have moved purposefully toward the most 
important installations and they easily found 
their way about in terrain they had vacated 
only four days previously. Whatever Major 
Hoshino's plans were, they were not realized. 
About forty of his men were killed and the 
rest dispersed. 14 

While this final debacle wiped out the 
Coastal Attack Force, that unit had ceased 
to exist as an effective support force on 13 
July, when its artillery was destroyed or lost. 
Without the artillery support it had ex- 
pected, the 237th Infantry, still somewhere 
south of Anamo and west of the Driniumor, 
could no longer seriously endanger Perse- 
cution Covering Force positions on the 
coast. 

The Attack South from the 
Paup Villages 

The 124th Infantry (less the 2d Battal- 
ion) had started its attack toward the 

" The story of the attack on Anamo is recon- 
structed from: PTF G-2 Dally Rpt 17, 17 Jul 44, 
PCF G-2 Daily Rpt 18, 17 Jul 44, and Msg, G-2 
Eastern Sector to 126th and 128th Inf Regts, 17 
Jul 44, all in 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 Jul 44; 
Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 58, 13 Sep 44, copy 
in G-2 DofA files; 18th Army Opns, III, 111-14. 
Allied estimates of the strength of the Japanese 
force engaged in this action range from 35 to 80 
men. The Japanese source gives a figure of "Major 
Hoshino and 30 survivors." Major Hoshino was 
himself killed during this action. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



163 



Driniumor about 0700 on 13 July. 15 The 
3d Battalion struck south from Anopapi 
along a route 1,000 yards west of the An- 
amo-Afua trail. The 1st Battalion began 
moving down that trail from Anamo about 
1000 hours. Documents captured by early 
morning patrols disclosed that the 237th 
Infantry was preparing an attack on 
Anamo, and both 124th Infantry units ex- 
pected some fighting. 

Shortly after 0800 the 3d Battalion began 
to encounter opposition, and not more than 
500 yards south of Anopapi the point was 
held up by a Japanese force of platoon 
strength. In the dense jungle it was almost 
an hour before the Japanese could be dis- 
persed and the advance continued. Half an 
hour and another 500-odd yards later, a 
well-concealed but lightly held enemy am- 
bush again halted the battalion. Allowing 
the bulk of the unit to pass through the am- 
bush position, Japanese machine gunners 
and riflemen opened fire on the rear guard. 
Finally Company L drove the enemy force 
(probably elements of the 1st Battalion, 
237th Infantry) into the jungle and at 1000 



u Information in this subsection is from: 124th 
Inf Jnl, 12 Jul-10 Aug 44; 124th Inf Opns Rpt 
Aitape, pp. 5-6; Ltr, CO 124th Inf to CG 31st Inf 
Div, 22 Jul 44 (copy of this ltr was lent to the 
author by Col Edward M. Starr, CO 124th Inf, but 
no copy exists in official files) ; PTF G-3 Jnls, 11- 
15 and 15-19 Jul 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 14-16 Jul 44; 
128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-27 Jul 44; 1st Bn 128th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 128th Inf Jnl, 28 
Jun-25 Aug 44; Ltr, Col Starr to Gen Ward, 21 
Aug 51; Ltr, Maj Edward A. Becker [S-3 1st Bn 
124th Inf] to Col Starr, 13 Nov 50, atchd to Ltr, 
Starr to Ward, 21 Aug 51, copies of both ltrs in 
OCMH files; Contribution of First Battalion 124th 
Infantry in Aitape Campaign, British New Guinea, 
1944, pp. 4-8. The latter document, essentially the 
diary of the S-3 1st Bn 124th Inf, was lent to the 
author by Major Becker through Colonel Starr, and 
no copy exists in official files. It is cited hereafter as 
1st Bn 124th Inf in Aitape Campaign. The principal 
source of Japanese information is 18th Army Opns, 
III, 111-14. 



the advance was resumed. Now the 3d Bat- 
talion swung southeast toward the Anamo— 
Afua trail, encountering only scattered rifle 
fire the rest of the day. 

The 1st Battalion had met no strong, or- 
ganized resistance as it advanced south 
along the Anamo-Afua trail, but there was 
a good deal of scattered rifle fire from Jap- 
anese stragglers. Somehow the battalion had 
moved off the main trail during the early 
afternoon and when, about 1 700, it reached 
the Driniumor, it was at a point some 1,500 
yards north of the trail-river junction. Its 
position in relation to that of the 3d Bat- 
talion is not clear. Apparently the 3d Bat- 
talion had crossed the lst's axis of advance 
to the 1st Battalion's rear sometime during 
the afternoon and at 1700 hours reached 
the Anamo-Afua trail at a point about 
1 ,000 yards west of the Driniumor and 2,000 
yards north of the trail-river junction. So 
much, at least, seems clear from the 3d Bat- 
talion and regimental records, although the 
1st Battalion's records indicate that the 3d 
bivouacked at a point about 2,000 yards 
due west of the lst's position on the river. 
Suffice it to say that 1st Battalion patrols 
could find no trace of the 3d Battalion be- 
fore dark on the 13th. 

During the night of 13-14 July, there 
were four separate perimeters in the North 
Force sector of the Driniumor line. The bat- 
talions of the 124th Infantry, with Colonel 
Starr's approval, remained out of contact 
with each other, although both had radio 
contact with North Force headquarters. 
Companies A and B, 128th Infantry, were 
in a separate perimeter on the river some 
600 yards north of the 1st Battalion, 124th 
Infantry. Patrol contact was established be- 
tween the two perimeters before dark but, 
again with Colonel Starr's approval, no at- 
tempt was made to set up a firm line be- 



164 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tween the two for the night. Instead of 
spreading men thinly along the river, the 
units in the two perimeters set up all-around 
defenses against the possibility of Japanese 
attack from the west. The fourth perimeter 
was that of the remainder of the 1 st Battal- 
ion, 128th Infantry, at the mouth of the 
Driniumor. The 128th Infantry units, like 
those of the 1 24th, had radio contact with 
North Force headquarters. 

Early on the morning of 14 July the 3d 
Battalion, 1 24th Infantry, moved on to the 
Driniumor to the right of the 1st Battalion 
of that regiment. During the same time the 
1st Battalion extended its left northward 
while the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, 
pushed its right south to establish a firm line 
along the river, simultaneously consolidat- 
ing its own lines. 

The attack of the 1 24th Infantry had dis- 
rupted plans of the 237th Infantry to clear 
the Paup villages, but not before that unit 
had caused some trouble at Tiver. There the 
2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, reorganizing 
after its withdrawal from the Driniumor, 
had established a defensive perimeter. Col- 
onel Nara, commanding the 237th Infantry, 
had rejoined his regiment (having been lost 
since the night of 10-11 July) about noon 
on 12 July. In compliance with previous 
orders, he immediately sent scouts out to- 
ward the Nigia River. Finding the new 
Allied defensive line around Tiver and south 
along Koronal Creek, he ordered his 1st and 
2d Battalions to attack. Shortly after dark on 
12 July the 1st Battalion struck Company F, 
128th Infantry, and succeeded in overrun- 
ning one machine gun position. A sharp fire 
fight continued and Company F was ulti- 
mately reinforced by Company A, which, 
however, did not arrive until most of the 
Japanese had already withdrawn. 



Colonel Nara tried to organize more at- 
tacks for the 13th, but his deployment was 
partially frustrated by the advance of the 
1 24th Infantry's battalions, which struck his 
right flank. Finally, late on the afternoon of 
the 13th, the 2d Battalion, 237th Infantry, 
bypassing 124th Infantry elements, fell 
upon the lines of Company E, 1 28th Infan- 
try, a few hundred yards south from Tiver. 
Giving ample proof that it had not lost its 
combat effectiveness after its disaster during 
the night of 10-11 July, Company E held 
firm and drove off the Japanese. But the 
237th Infantry elements now swung to the 
northeast in an attempt to reach less swampy 
terrain near the beach. By 1900 the entire 
front of the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, 
was being subjected to a series of small-scale 
attacks which, combined with sporadic 
outbreaks of enemy machine gun fire, con- 
tinued throughout the night of 13-14 July. 
At dawn on the 1 4th the remaining elements 
of the 237th Infantry withdrew into the 
jungle south and southeast of Tiver. They 
had suffered heavy losses and had found the 
combination of swampy ground along the 
Koronal and the defensive fires of the 2d 
Battalion, 128th Infantry, too much for 
them. Colonel Nara abandoned his plans to 
clear the Paup villages, and after 14 July 
only a few minor patrol skirmishes occurred 
in the Tiver area. 

South Force and the Gap 

General Cunningham's South Force had 
begun moving eastward from the X-ray 
River on schedule at 1000 on 13 July. 16 The 

'"This subsection is based on: 112th Cav Opns 
Rpt Aitape, pp. 6-8; 112th Cav Opns and Int Diary 
Aitape ; 1 12th Cav Sum of Msgs, 1-29 Jul 44; 124th 
Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 6; 124th Inf Jnl, 12 Jul- 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



165 



1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry, led out over 
the Afua-Palauru trail, followed by the 2d 
Squadron and part of the 3d Battalion, 
127th Infantry. At a stream-crossing on the 
trail about 2,200 yards east of the X-ray, 
the leading troop was halted by approxi- 
mately seventy-five Japanese who were dug 
in across the track. This force, probably ele- 
ments of the 78th Infantry, faded away as 
Troop A crossed the stream at a point north 
of the trail and threatened the enemy's 
right. A second Japanese position was en- 
countered at another stream-crossing about 
1 ,500 yards west of Afua, but the 1st Squad- 
ron, after a short but sharp fire fight, broke 
through this opposition also. About 1430 
Australian aircraft based on the Tadji strips 
bombed and strafed the Afua area. Fifteen 
minutes later the South Force column 
reached the Driniumor at the village. 

The 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry (less 
Captain Lowry's group ) , pushed north up 
the Driniumor to its old defensive positions, 
while the 112th Cavalry spread out along 
the Driniumor near Afua. Patrols of the 3d 
Battalion moved down the river as far as the 
junction of the Anamo-Afua trail with the 
Driniumor, but could find no sign of the 
1 24th Infantry, The latter unit had reported 
earlier in the day that it had reached the 
trail-river junction, but, unfamiliar with the 
terrain along the Driniumor, had undoubt- 



10 Aug 44 ; 3d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44 ; 
Interv, author with Gen Cunningham, Apr 47; 
Interv, author with Col Hooper, 25 Mar 47; Interv, 
author with Capt Lowry, Apr 47; PTF G-3 Jnls, 
11-15 and 15-19 Jul 44; PCF G-3 Jnls, 14-16 and 
16-20 Jul 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 107-15; Ltr, 
Becker to Starr, 13 Nov 50; 1st Bn 124th Inf in 
Aitape Campaign, pp. 7—9. Additional information 
was supplied by General Cunningham and Colonel 
Hooper who, during January 1950, read and made 
notes on draft chapters concerning operations at 
Aitape. These notes, a copy of which is in the 
OCMH files, are hereafter cited as Cunningham 
Notes. 



edly erred in estimating its position. On the 
morning of 14 July General Cunningham 
sent patrols 1,500 yards north of the junc- 
tion, but still no trace of the 1 24th Infantry 
could be found. The South Force com- 
mander thereupon dispatched Troop E, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, north beyond the lines of the 
3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, to close the 
wide gap which obviously existed in the 
Driniumor line. The gap had probably been 
at least 2,500 yards wide during the night of 
13—14 July but was narrowed on the latter 
day by South Force's extension northward. 
However, it remained about 1,500 yards 
wide at nightfall on the 15th. 

The Japanese had some knowledge of this 
weakness in the American lines and took ad- 
vantage of it, especially during the hours of 
darkness. During daylight the enemy stayed 
away from the river for the most part, per- 
mitting American forces to move through 
the gap with only occasional rifle fire to op- 
pose them. Their own use of the gap some- 
times cost the Japanese dearly, and during 
the night of 14-15 July about 135 of the 
enemy were killed in the area by the 3d Bat- 
talion, 1 24th Infantry." 

By nightfall on the 15 th General Cun- 
ningham was becoming sensitive about the 
gap. He could not convince General Gill, at 
Persecution Covering Force headquarters, 
that South Force had already extended its 
lines almost 1,000 yards beyond its assigned 
sector without finding any elements of the 
124th Infantry. General Cunningham felt 
that the 1 24th Infantry was not giving him 
much co-operation. He claimed that with- 
out his permission the infantry regiment had 
held Troop E within its lines during the 
night of 15-16 July and he complained that 
the infantry was giving no protection to 

" This enemy casualty figure is from Ltr, CO 
124th Inf to CG 31st Div, 22 Jul 44. 



166 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



South Force wire parties which were trying 
to establish telephone communications with 
headquarters installations on the coast. 18 

Persecution Covering Force headquar- 
ters was also critical of South Force's com- 
munications, but General Cunningham did 
not believe criticism was justified. He 
pointed out that his wire parties received no 
help, that wire was continually being cut 
by the enemy or by accidents, and that at- 
mospheric conditions caused radio malfunc- 
tioning in the South Force area after dark. 
In view of his communications difficulties 
and the trouble in closing the gap, General 
Cunningham requested that South Force be 
reinforced by an infantry battalion. This re- 
quest could not be complied with for some 
days. 

Meanwhile the 1 24th Infantry continued 
to report that it had pushed far south of the 
trail-river junction without encountering 
any troops except Japanese stragglers. Head- 
quarters, Persecution Covering Force, ap- 
parently accepted the 124th Infantry's re- 
ports at face value, but there is little doubt 
that the 1 24th Infantry incorrectly reported 
its locations. On the other hand, the 3d Bat- 
talion, 127th Infantry, had been operating 
along the river since late June. It can be pre- 
sumed that the men of that unit could recog- 
nize on 13 July the positions they had oc- 
cupied as late as the morning of the 11th. 
On the afternoon of 1 5 July, Colonel Starr, 
commanding the 1 24th Infantry, apparently 



18 Major Becker, S-3 of the 1st Battalion, 124th 
Infantry, indicates (in Ltr, Becker to Starr, 13 Nov 
50) that he feels some of General Cunningham's re- 
marks were unjustified : first, because it would have 
been impossible for Troop E to have returned to 
South Force before dark ; second, because the Troop 
E commander was only advised to stay in North 
Force's lines; and third, because the 124th Infantry 
had not been asked by South Force to provide pro- 
tection for wire parties. 



concluded that his regiment had not moved 
as far south as earlier reported. At that time 
he ordered the unit to adjust its lines to the 
south and extend its defenses up the Drini- 
umor to the left flank of South Force. 

At 0800 on the 16th, the 3d Battalion, 
124th Infantry, using Troop E of the 1 12th 
Cavalry as point and guide, started moving 
south to close the gap. Troop E had scarcely 
moved out of its night bivouac when it was 
met by heavy fire from enemy positions on 
both sides of the Driniumor. Learning that 
the 237th Infantry was in serious danger of 
being cut off west of the Driniumor by the 
American restoration of the river line, the 
18th Army had made efforts to keep the 
original crossing point open. For this pur- 
pose two companies of the 1st Battalion, 
239th Infantry, had been hurriedly sent for- 
ward from the Marubian area. At the same 
time, Colonel Nara, defeated in his attempts 
to clear the Paup villages, had turned the 
237th Infantry back toward the Kawanaka 
Shima area and ordered the remnants of his 
3d Battalion to attack the American rear. 

Most of the fire on Troop E evidently 
came from the two companies of the 1st 
Battalion, 239th Infantry, on the east side 
of the river. While Troop E was seeking 
cover from this fire and fighting ofT a few 
Japanese who attacked from the left flank, 
the 3d Battalion, 237th Infantry, hit the 
right of the 3d Battalion, 124th Infantry, 
close behind Troop E. The Japanese suc- 
ceeded in splitting the American force. 
Companies I and K, 124th Infantry, halted 
to face the enemy attack from the west, 
while Troop E, Company L, and most of 
Company M pushed on southward through 
increasing opposition from the 239th In- 
fantry's companies. Fighting every foot of 
the way, the three American units reached 
South Force lines about 1500. They killed 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



167 



about forty Japanese during the move south 
and closed the larger portion of the gap. 

To the north, Companies I and K, 124th 
Infantry, dug in for the night. During the 
next day, 16 July, attempts made to close a 
remaining 500 yards of the gap were un- 
successful, although an additional forty-five 
Japanese were killed as elements of the 
237th or 239th Infantry Regiment contin- 
ued their efforts to keep the gap open. Late 
on the 1 7th the gap was temporarily closed, 
but it was reopened during the succeeding 
night for a distance of about 300 yards, 
probably by elements of the 237th Infantry. 
The last small portion of the gap was closed 
by the 124th Infantry on the morning of 18 
July. Then the remnants of the 3d Battalion, 
237th Infantry, withdrew to the west, while 
the 239th Infantry's force, its commander 
killed, withdrew eastward. The Persecu- 
tion Covering Force's Driniumor River line 
was once again solid from Afua to the coast, 
a week after the 18th Army had made its 
first break-through. 

Operations West of the Driniumor 

General Hall realized that the re-estab- 
lishment of the Driniumor line might leave 
strong Japanese units west of the river. 
These enemy troops, although cut off from 
their sources of supply, could harass the rear 
of the Driniumor line, move south to cut the 
Afua— Palauru trail, or continue to annoy 
the North Force command post area. Not- 
withstanding the fact that he had been or- 
dered to counterattack when the impetus of 
the 18th Army's initial assault had been 
spent, General Hall did not feel that the 
time for counterattack beyond the Driniu- 
mor was at hand but decided that the most 
immediately pressing problem was to clear 
all Japanese units from the area west of the 



river. Furthermore, he wished to await the 
arrival at Aitape of at least one regimental 
combat team of the 43 d Division, a rein- 
forcement which would make possible the 
release of units already acquainted with the 
terrain in the Driniumor area from positions 
on the main line of resistance. Finally, the 
task force commander believed it necessary 
to locate the main body of the 20th Division 
before launching a counterattack. Only the 
78th Infantry of that division had so far 
been identified in the Driniumor area, but it 
was believed that the rest of the division had 
participated in the attack during the night 
of 10-11 July. 19 

For the purpose of clearing the enemy 
from the area west of the Driniumor, Gen- 
eral Hall released the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
127th Infantry, from their positions on the 
main line of resistance and placed them un- 
der General Gill's control. 20 By morning of 
the 16th, both battalions had closed at 
Tiver. The 2d Battalion was to clear the 
Japanese from an area between Koronal 
Creek and the Driniumor to a depth of one 
and a half miles inland, while the 1st Bat- 
talion was to set up a patrol base south of 
the 2d between the two streams. After clear- 
ing its sector, the 2d was to follow the 1st 
south and aid the latter in driving any Jap- 

"Interv with Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47; Rads, PTF 
to Alamo, AE-1914, 14 Jul 44, and AE-2145, 16 
Jul 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 13-16 
Jul 44. 

30 The action behind North Force is based on : 
PTF G-3 Jnls, 12-14 and 15-17 Jul 44; PCF G-3 
Jnl, 16-20 Jul 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, Sec. 
II, pp. 4-6; 127th Inf Jnl file, 10-31 Jul 44; 1st Bn 
127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 127th Inf 
Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 124th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 
pp. 6-8; 124th Inf Jnl, 12 Jul-10 Aug 44. There 
now remained on the main line of resistance the 
126th Infantry and the 3d Battalion, 128th Infan- 
try. The 2d Battalion, 124th Infantry, was being 
held by General Hall at Blue Beach as a mobile 
reserve. 



168 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



anese it could find south into the Torricelli 
Mountains. 

In a series of complicated and sometimes 
un-co-ordinated company actions on 16-18 
July, the 2d Battalion overran the area as- 
signed to it, encountering a few small groups 
of the 237th Infantry and helping to disrupt 
that regiment's plans for continuing attacks 
on the Paup villages and keeping open a 
crossing over the Driniumor. The activities 
of the 2d Battalion actually resulted in a 
mixed blessing. On the one hand, the bat- 
talion cleared many Japanese from the rear 
of North Force, but on the other, in driving 
elements of the 237th Infantry south and 
eastward, it inadvertently caused the 124th 
Infantry much difficulty in its mission of 
closing and keeping closed the gap in the 
Driniumor line. 

After the operations of the 2d Battalion, 
127th Infantry, and the closing of the gap 
between North and South Forces on 1 8 July, 
the 124th Infantry's sector remained quiet 
for a few days. 21 On the 21st, the 2d Battal- 
ion of the 169th Infantry, 43d Division, 
arrived on the Driniumor to strengthen the 
124th Infantry. 22 The new arrivals took over 
about 1,000 yards of the river line on the 
right of the 124th Infantry. They had 
arrived none too soon. 

General Adachi still had plans to reopen 
a crossing of the Driniumor near Kawanaka 
Shima in order to send supplies across the 
river and to continue efforts to divide the 



21 The following story of Japanese attempts to re- 
open a crossing of the Driniumor is based on: 2d 
Bn 169th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3; 124th Inf 
Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 6-9; 124th Inf Jnl, 12 Jul- 
10 Aug 44; PCF G-3 Jnl, 22-26 Jul 44; 3d Bn 
127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 18th Army Opns, 
III, 114-20; PW interrogs and trans of captured 
docs in PTF and Eastern Sector G— 2 Jnls, Jul and 
Aug 44. 

E The 169th Infantry had. arrived at Blue Beach 
from New Zealand on 20 July. 



Allied defenders. For this purpose he in- 
structed the 239th Infantry, supported by 
elements of the 238th Infantry and the 41st 
Mountain Artillery, to move against the 
Kawanaka Shima area on 27 July. For rea- 
sons unknown, he changed these orders on 
the 19th and ordered the same 41st Division 
elements to strike immediately and dis- 
patched the 66th Infantry, 51st Division, 
westward to participate in the attack. 

It was not until the night of 21-22 July 
that the Japanese forward units were able to 
organize for any sort of attack. During that 
night, elements of the 124th Infantry re- 
ceived considerable mortar, machine gun, 
and rifle fire from east of the Driniumor. 
This fire increased the next morning, and 
about noon the 3d Battalion, 124th Infan- 
try, was attacked from the west by elements 
of the 237th Infantry. The first Japanese at- 
tack was ". . . finally broken up by a bayo- 
net charge . . ." 23 conducted by elements 
of the 3d Battalion, 124th Infantry, but 
other attacks followed as troops of the 1st 
Battalion, 239th Infantry, tried to move 
across the Driniumor from the east, striking 
both the 124th Infantry's unit and part of 
the 2d Battalion, 169th Infantry. Before 
dark on the 22d, the 3d Battalion, 1 24th In- 
fantry, counted 155 new Japanese dead in 
its area. That unit and the 2d Battalion, 
1 69th Infantry, reported their own losses as 
five killed and twenty-five wounded. 24 

Further attempts to reopen the river cross- 
ing were made by the 1st Battalion, 239th 

13 124th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 8. 

" The report of the 2d Battalion, 169th Infantry, 
states that 274 Japanese were killed in the area of 
the night and day action. This figure appears to be 
a rather high estimate. The American figure is that 
given in the Journal of the 3d Battalion, 124th In- 
fantry. A 124th Infantry regimental report, later on 
the 22d, gives total American casualties in the 24- 
hour action as 11 killed, 24 wounded, and 20 non- 
battle. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



169 



Infantry, on the night of 23-24 June, but 
these efforts were thwarted by the troops 
along the river and support fire by the 149th 
Field Artillery Battalion from the coast 
near Anamo. There was another minor 
flare-up the next night near the point where 
the lines of the 2d Battalion, 169th Infantry, 
and the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, joined. 
With this last effort, the 18th Army gave up 
attempts to reopen a river crossing in the 
North Force area, which remained rela- 
tively quiet thereafter. 

Meanwhile, the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
127th Infantry, had continued mopping-up 
operations west of the Driniumor. 25 From 1 6 
through 18 July the 1st Battalion had moved 
slowly south from Tiver along Koronal 
Creek, driving scattered elements of the 
237th Infantry before it or pushing them 
eastward toward the river lines of the 1 24th 
Infantry. On the 18th the 1st Battalion, 
127th Infantry, now on the X-ray River 
some 6,000 yards south of Tiver, started 
moving east to set up a patrol base on East 
Branch, Koronal Creek, at a point about 
2,000 yards north of the Afua-Palauru trail 
and an equal distance east of the X-ray. Pa- 
trolling thoroughly in heavily jungled ter- 
rain, the battalion bivouacked for the night 
of 18-19 July some 400 yards west of its 
objective. 

During the evening, Headquarters, Per- 
secution Covering Force, informed the 
battalion that the 78th Infantry, 20th Divi- 
sion, was located between East Branch and 
the 1 12th Cavalry's positions at Afua, to the 
southeast. This was easy to believe, for the 



a Information on further operations of the 127th 
Infantry west of the Driniumor is based on: 127th 
Inf Jnl file, 10-31 Jul 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 
Jun-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 
Aug 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, Sec. II, pp. 
4-6; PTF G-3 Jnls, 15-19 and 19-21 Jul 44. 



1st Battalion's right flank patrols had en- 
countered many Japanese during the after- 
noon, and the 1 1 2th Cavalry reported that 
its patrols had discovered large groups of 
Japanese in the vicinity of Kwamagnirk, 
about midway between the 1st Battalion 
and Afua. Although opposition was ex- 
pected, the 1st Battalion moved on to its 
patrol base site during the 19th without en- 
countering any Japanese. The unit was 
joined at its new base on the 20th by the 2d 
Battalion, which had moved south from 
Tiver against little opposition. 

The two battalions were now isolated in a 
heavily jungled area and insofar as they 
knew might have been surrounded by a 
strong enemy force. Overland supply was 
both dangerous and slow, and for the next 
two days the units were supplied principally 
by airdrop. Communications with Head- 
quarters, Persecution Covering Force, or 
with units along the Driniumor were at best 
sporadic. Telephone lines could not be kept 
in service and radios would not work much 
of the time. 

The battalions had not yet located any 
large body of enemy troops west of the 
Driniumor. Therefore, on the morning of 20 
July, General Gill ordered the units to pre- 
pare to move southeast toward the 1 1 2th 
Cavalry and Afua, where a great deal of 
enemy activity had broken out two days 
earlier. Time was to be taken before de- 
parture from the patrol base to co-ordinate 
plans with South Force and to make addi- 
tional attempts to locate the main body of 
the 20th Division, which, General Hall still 
suspected, might be west of the Driniumor. 

During the next three days the two 1 27th 
Infantry battalions sent out patrols in all 
directions. No large bodies of Japanese 
troops were located, but a number of small 
parties of the 78th Infantry, 20th Division, 



170 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



were encountered. This patrolling continued 
while efforts were made by Headquarters, 
Persecution Covering Force, to obtain 
some understanding of the steadily deterior- 
ating situation of South Force in the Afua 
area. 

The Japanese Attack on the South Flank 

Even while South Force had been going 
about the business of restoring its section of 
the Driniumor line and helping to close the 
gap between South and North Forces, the 
Japanese had begun new offensive maneu- 
vers in the Afua area. The night of 13-14 
July — South Force's first night back on the 
Driniumor — was quiet, and only scattered 
contacts were made with enemy forces the 
next day. But on the 15th there was a notice- 
able increase in Japanese activity in South 
Force's area, especially in the vicinity of 
Afua. 

Japanese Attack Preparations 

On 15 July patrols of the 1 12th Cavalry 
encountered many small parties of Japanese 
near Afua and found indications that many 
more enemy troops were in the same re- 
gion. 26 The next day, groups of Japanese 
were observed crossing the Driniumor in 
both directions at a fording point about 
2,500 yards south of Afua. About the same 



* Information in this and the following subsection 
is based principally on : 11 2th Cav Opns Rpt Aitape, 
pp. 7-9; 112th Cav Opns and Int Diary Aitape; 
112th Cav Sum of Msgs, 1-29 Jul 44; PTF G-3 
Jnls, 15-19, 19-21, and 21-26 Jul 44; PCF G-3 
Jnls, 14-16, 16-20, and 20-22 Jul 44 ; Interv, author 
with Gen Cunningham, Apr 47 ; Interv, author with 
Col Hooper, 25 Mar 48; 18th Army Opns, III, 110- 
23. In the last-named source, upon which reconstruc- 
tion of Japanese plans is principally based, are cited 
MO Opn Orders 17, 14 Jul; 21, 16 Jul; 22, 19 Jul; 
23, 21 Jul ; and 24, 21 Jul 44. 



time it was discovered that the enemy had 
blazed a rough track south of the Afua- 
Palauru trail and running along the foot- 
hills of the Torricelli Mountains from the 
Driniumor to the headwaters of the X-ray 
River. 

While it would obviously have been desir- 
able to block this new trail, especially at the 
point where it crossed the Driniumor, Gen- 
eral Hall did not feel he could spare any 
troops for the task. He was not greatly con- 
cerned about enemy movements on the right 
of South Force and he did not believe that 
the enemy could or would move any large 
force west along the new trail. He also knew 
that the enemy could find other routes to 
bypass South Force even if the one trail 
were cut. Nevertheless, South Force was 
ordered to do everything in its power to stop 
Japanese westward movements. General 
Cunningham was instructed to send strong 
patrols south of Afua to harass Japanese 
forces on the new trail and he was also 
ordered to keep the Af ua-Palauru trail clear 
of enemy troops in order to keep open the 
overland line of communications to Blue 
Beach via Chinapelli and Palauru. 

Before receiving these instructions, Gen- 
eral Cunningham, who believed that South 
Force was being outflanked by large num- 
bers of Japanese, had wanted to shorten his 
lines by retiring north of Afua. The new 
orders disapproved such a withdrawal. In 
order to protect his south flank, General 
Cunningham therefore bent his right back 
along the Afua-Palauru trail west approxi- 
mately 600 yards from the Driniumor. On 
high ground at the western extremity of this 
new line he stationed Troop A, 112th Cav- 
alry. The remainder of the 1st Squadron 
was posted at Afua and along the Driniumor 
to a point about 800 yards north of that 
village. All South Force units were alerted 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



171 



to the possibility of attack from the south 
and west. The Japanese had been preparing 
just such an attack. 

On 1 1 July the assault units of the 20th 
Division had begun assembling on the high 
ground west of the Driniumor and had 
started preparations for further movement 
westward. The overland withdrawal of the 
3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, and Company 
G, 128th Infantry, on 11-13 July had ap- 
parently prevented the Left and Right Flank 
Units from reorganizing as rapidly as 
planned. The return of South Force to the 
Driniumor, beginning on the 13th, had 
found the two Japanese attack forces still 
trying to concentrate for movement west- 
ward. On the 15th the two units were com- 
bined as the Miyake Force under General 
Miyake, who was ordered to secure Afua 
and the high ground to the west in prepara- 
tion for a concerted drive northward toward 
the coast when the rest of the 20th Division 
arrived in the forward area. 

Although General Miyake was unable to 
organize any rapid assault on Afua — his first 
objective — the contacts which the 1st 
Squadron, 1 1 2th Cavalry, made with Japa- 
nese units in the Afua area on 15 and 16 
July probably marked Miyake Force prep- 
arations for attack. By evening of the 16th, 
however, General Adachi realized that the 
18th Army's initial break-through along the 
Driniumor had not achieved decisive results. 
Instead, the Persecution Covering Force 
had managed to wipe out the Coastal At- 
tack Force, cut off and inflict heavy losses 
on the 237th Infantry, greatly reduce the 
78th Infantry's strength, restore the Drini- 
umor line with greater strength than had 
been employed on the river prior to 1 July, 
and seriously threaten the Miyake Force's 
lines of communication. Under such condi- 
tions the 18th Army commander knew it 



was impossible to execute an attack on the 
Allied main line of resistance around the 
Tadji airfields, in preparation for which the 
Miyake Force's drive to the coast had been 
ordered. General Adachi therefore aban- 
doned his original plan in favor of another 
attack against the United States forces along 
the Driniumor, forces which he now believed 
to comprise most of the Allied troops in the 
Aitape area. 

To start this new attack, those elements 
of the 20th Division still east of the Driniu- 
mor were ordered to cross the river and drive 
on Afua from the south. Earlier orders to 
the 66th Infantry, 51st Division, to aid the 
forward elements of the 41st Division to the 
north were canceled, and the regiment was 
attached to the 20th Division for operations 
in the Afua area. The new efforts by the 
20th Division were to be carried out in con- 
junction with the attack against Afua which 
the Miyake Force had already been ordered 
to undertake. 

The Japanese Retake Afua 

On 17 and 18 July the Miyake Force 
slowly maneuvered into position to the right 
and rear of the 1st Squadron, 112th Cav- 
alry. On the evening of the 1 8th the 3d Bat- 
talion, 78th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 
80th Infantry, poured out of the jungle west 
and northwest of the 1st Squadron's com- 
mand post and the contiguous perimeter 
held by Troop A, west of Afua. The two 
South Force units were pushed 250 yards to 
the northeast, where they rapidly established 
new positions. Reinforcements — two rifle 
platoons from the 1st Squadron and one 
from the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry- — 
arrived at the new perimeter at dusk. The 
next morning the composite force attacked 
south and regained the ground vacated the 



172 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



previous night. The Miyake Force units fled 
northwest into the jungle without firing a 
shot. 

Early in the afternoon of 19 July fresh 
Japanese units began to surround the Troop 
A position, moving in from the north, north- 
west, west, and southwest. The 1st Squad- 
ron commander called for artillery fire to 
break up this enemy maneuver. Upon cessa- 
tion of the fire, Troop A attacked to the 
south and west for a second time. Driving 
at least a company of Japanese before it, 
the troop pushed 600 yards southwest of its 
original positions astride the Afua-Palauru 
trail and temporarily disrupted enemy 
plans to seize the position. 27 About 140 
Japanese had been killed during the two 
days' operation around Troop A. South 
Force, at the same time, lost 8 men killed 
and 29 wounded, all from the 1st Squadron, 
112th Cavalry . 5S There were strong indica- 
tions that more attacks might occur in the 
1st Squadron area, but Troop A was not 
destined to take part in any of these actions. 
It was replaced on the 21st by Troop C. 

After this change, South Force positions 
were as follows: The 3d Battalion, 127th 
Infantry, held about 1,200 yards along the 
river south from the junction of the Anamo- 
Afua trail with the Driniumor. On the right 



!T The Japanese account has these actions occur- 
ring on 17 and 18 July but all American sources 
state that the attacks against Troop A and the 1st 
Squadron command post occurred on the 18th and 
19th of the month. 

28 The American casualty figures are from 112th 
Cavalry records. According to the Cunningham 
Notes, the figure for Japanese casualties is based on 
a count of Japanese dead by Colonel Miller, the 
commander of the 112th Cavalry Regiment. For a 
series of heroic actions and outstanding leadership 
during the period 16-19 July, 2d Lt. Dale Eldon 
Christensen, a platoon leader of Troop A, was 
awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Lieu- 
tenant Christensen was killed on 4 August while 
leading his platoon in another attack. 



of the 3d Battalion was the 2d Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, with two troops on the river. 
Troop E was in reserve about 200 yards west 
of the river near an open space employed for 
air-dropping supplies to South Force. In a 
patch of banana trees just south of this drop- 
ping ground were Headquarters, South 
Force, and Headquarters, 112th Cavalry. 
The 1st Squadron defended the west bank 
of the river north from Afua 1,200 yards, 
tying its left into the right of the 2d Squad- 
ron. About 550 yards west and slighdy north 
of Afua were Troop C and Headquarters, 
1st Squadron. Most of Troop C's defenses 
faced north and northwest. The troop's 
southeast flank was tied loosely into the lines 
of Troop B, at Afua, but this connection was 
more theoretical than actual and contact 
between the two was maintained principally 
by patrols and sound-powered telephone. 

Even as Troop C was replacing Troop A, 
the Japanese were making new plans for at- 
tack. Orders were issued on 19 July for the 
entire 20th Division immediately to attack 
and clear the Afua area. The Miyake Force 
(to which was now attached the remnants of 
the 237th Infantry, 41st Division, in addi- 
tion to the 78th and 80th Infantry Regi- 
ments of the 20th Division) was to attack 
from the north and west, while the rest of the 
20th Division, including the 79th Infantry, 
was to attack from the south. The 66th In- 
fantry, having difficulty moving forward 
and suffering from a series of changes in 
orders, was to remain in reserve east of the 
Driniumor and turn its supplies over to the 
Miyake Force. 

Although the co-ordinated Japanese at- 
tack was to have been on 19 July, only the 
isolated action in the area of Troop A, 1 12th 
Cavalry, occurred that day. Probably the 
Japanese were unable to get organized on 
schedule, an occupational disease which 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY ATTACKS 



173 



marked all Japanese operations in the 
Aitape area. The 79th Infantry and Head- 
quarters, 20th Division, did not cross the 
Driniumor until 18 and 19 July. Moreover, 
the 237th Infantry remnants had not yet 
joined the Miyake Force, the other two com- 
ponents of which apparently had some dif- 
ficulty reorganizing after their operations on 
the evening of the 1 8th and the morning of 
the 19th. By evening on 21 July, however, 
the Japanese were ready. 

At 1645 a Japanese 75-mm. mountain 
gun opened point blank fire on the semi- 
isolated perimeter of Troop C, 1 1 2th Cav- 
alry. After a few rounds from this weapon, 
an enemy force (estimated by the cavalry- 
men to be about a battalion strong and 
probably part of the 79th Infantry) at- 
tacked Troop C from the south and west, 
cutting it off from the rest of South Force. 
Troop B, at Afua, tried to re-establish con- 
tact with Troop C, but was prevented from 
so doing by enemy parties now stationed 
along the Afua-Palauru trail. Two rifle 
platoons of Company I, 127th Infantry, 
were sent southwest from their river posi- 
tions to aid Troop C. One reached the cav- 
alry unit during the night, but the other was 
forced to fall back to South Force's com- 
mand post. 29 Heavy rifle, machine gun, and 
mortar fire, and even hand-to-hand fighting, 
continued in the Troop C area throughout 
the night. At the same time elements of the 
Miyake Force attempted to overrun the 
South Force command post area. 

At dawn on the 2 2d Troop B made sev- 

29 On 22 July Pvt. Donald R. Lobaugh of Com- 
pany I, 127th Infantry, succeeded, at the cost of his 
life, in knocking out a Japanese machine gun nest 
which held up the withdrawal of the Company I 
platoon that had been forced back toward the com- 
mand post, an action for which he was awarded the 
Congressional Medal of Honor. The platoon had 
spent the night of 21-22 July on an isolated perim- 
eter, surrounded by enemy units. 



eral more efforts to reach Troop C and Gen- 
eral Cunningham sent out his reserve, Troop 
E, in another attempt to relieve the belea- 
guered unit. Both actions were futile, for the 
Japanese had managed to secure control 
over all the commanding ground west and 
northwest of Afua. Not knowing what other 
plans the Japanese might have in mind, 
General Cunningham was unwilling to pull 
any more troops away from the river de- 
fenses. Moreover, he now considered the 
position of his right flank untenable. He 
therefore withdrew Troop B north of Afua 
about 1 ,000 yards and used the unit to form 
a new defense line which ran westward 
about 500 yards from Troop A's right flank, 
anchored on the Driniumor. South Force's 
right flank was now refused and additional 
protection had been secured for medical, 
supply, and command post installations at 
the dropping ground banana patch. Troop 
C was left isolated behind Japanese lines, 
and Afua was again released to the enemy. 

Changes in PERSECUTION 
Task Force Plans 

American forces had been back on the 
Driniumor since 1 3 July and the Driniumor 
line had been restored from Afua to the 
coast by evening on the 18th. Only four days 
later, the Persecution Covering Force had 
found it necessary to give up a portion of 
the restored line. Even before this second 
retreat, General Hall had again considered 
strengthening the units along the Driniu- 
mor, a step made possible when, on 20 July, 
elements of the 43d Infantry Division began 
arriving at Aitape. General Hall decided 
that he could employ the fresh units to sta- 
bilize the situation in the Afua area and to 
stop Japanese attempts to seize control of 
the Afua-Palauru trail. 



174 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



At first General Hall planned to move the 
112th Cavalry west from Afua to new po- 
sitions astride the Afua-Palauru trail about 
midway between the Driniumor and X-ray 
Rivers. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 127th 
Infantry, were then to move to the Driniu- 
mor from their recently established patrol 
base on the East Branch of Koronal Creek, 
join the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, on 
the river, and take over all of South Force's 
Driniumor defenses. The 2d Battalion, 
1 24th Infantry, still in reserve at Blue Beach, 
was to join the rest of its regiment on the 
Driniumor while one battalion of the 1 69th 
Infantry, 43d Division, was to move to 
Palauru to provide additional outer secu- 
rity southwest of the airfield main line of 
resistance. The remainder of the 43d Divi- 
sion, upon its arrival at Blue Beach, was to 
man defenses along the main line of re- 
sistance or stand by in task force reserve. 30 

These plans were never realized. First, it 
was discovered that the 169th Infantry had 
brought to Aitape many unserviceable or 
badly worn automatic weapons and mor- 
tars. Then it was found that days would be 
required to unload many of the regiment's 
crew-served weapons. The unit had not 
been combat loaded, since it and the rest of 
the division had moved forward from New 
Zealand expecting to stop at Aitape only for 
staging, and not for combat with the Perse- 
cution Task Force. 31 Some replacements for 
unserviceable weapons could be found in 
limited stocks at Aitape, but the rest had to 
await shipment from Services of Supply 
bases in eastern New Guinea. 



" PTF G-3 Jul, 19-21 Jul 44; PTF FO 9, 20 
Jul 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 19-21 Jul 44. 

" 43d Div MO 16, 17 Jun 44, in 43d Div Opns 
Rpt Aitape; Interv, author with Maj Joseph L. 
Manz, ex-Adj, 169th Infantry, 11 May 48, copy in 
OCMH files; Interv, author with Gen Hall, 27 
Mar. 47. 



The condition of the 169th Infantry's 
weapons, combined with the delays in un- 
loading the regiment, limited that unit's 
usefulness. General Hall, who deemed the 
immediate dispatch of one battalion to 
Palauru to be urgently necessary, therefore 
sent the 2d Battalion, 124th Infantry, to 
that village, where it arrived on the after- 
noon of 21 July. The 2d Battalion, 169th 
Infantry (first unit of the 43d Division to 
arrive at Aitape), was sent to Anamo the 
same day and on the 22d had moved to the 
right flank of the two 124th Infantry Bat- 
talions already on the Driniumor. 32 

While these dispositions were being ef- 
fected, Japanese activity in the Afua area so 
increased that General Hall decided that 
it would be unwise to move the 1 1 2th Cav- 
alry away from the Driniumor. Instead, he 
now ordered the 1st and 2d Battalions, 
127th Infantry, to move southwest from 
their East Branch patrol bases to strengthen 
South Force and relieve Troop C, 112th 
Cavalry. 33 The 1st Battalion, 127th Infan- 



» PTF G-3 Jnl, 19-21 Jul 44 ; Interv, author with 
Gen Hall, 27 Mar 47. From internal evidence in task 
force documents, it appears that the 2d Battalion, 
169th Infantry, was originally moved to Anamo as 
reserve for the Persecution Covering Force. Gen- 
eral Gill moved it into the line, still without some 
of its crew-served weapons, possibly to strengthen 
the 1 24th Infantry's two battalions with the leaven 
of a more experienced unit. The 169th Infantry's 
battalion had had a good deal of combat in the 
South Pacific, while the 124th Infantry was in its 
first combat. 

38 PCF Fragmentary FO, no number, 22 Jul 44, 
in PCF G-3 Jnl, 27-31 Jul 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 21-26 
Jul 44. The original plans for the employment of the 
127th Infantry were never formally revoked but 
seem to have died a natural death after it proved 
impracticable to move the 1 12th Cavalry away from 
the Driniumor. Plans for the movement of the 127th 
Infantry's two battalions were drawn up by General 
Cunningham and Colonel Howe (the commander 
of the 127th Infantry) during the afternoon of 22 
July. Colonel Howe, with a small escort, made his 



Chart 1 1 — The Persecution Task Force: 22 July-30 July 1944 



71 - 5S Juty 



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HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
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176 THE 

try, left its East Branch base at 0745 on 23 
July and moved directly eastward through 
dense jungle to the lines of the 3d Battalion, 
127th Infantry. Then the unit turned south 
and about 1530 reached the South Force 
command post area at the banana patch. 

The battalion's arrival was welcome and 
timely. Troop E, 1 1 2th Cavalry, had been 
attempting all day to move south from the 
command post to relieve Troop G, which 
was still cut off. But Troop E had met with 
little success and was pushed back by in- 
creasingly aggressive Japanese units which 
now threatened to attack the South Force 
command post, capture the dropping 
ground, and overrun the entire right flank 
of the Persecution Covering Force. 34 



way overland through enemy-infested territory from 
the East Branch patrol base to South Force head- 
quarters during the morning of the 22d. 

31 127th Inf Jnl file, 10-31 Jul 44; 112th Cav 
Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 9-10; 112th Cav Opns and 
Int Diary Aitape; PTF G-3 Jnl, 21-26 Jul 44. 



APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 

The 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, crossed 
to the right bank of East Branch about 0800 
on the 23d and struck southeast toward the 
Afua-Palauru trail, passing through many 
recently abandoned Japanese bivouacs. In 
midmorning the battalion found a narrow 
track leading toward Kwamagnirk and at 
1 200 the unit was atop a low ridge just south 
of that village, which had been obliterated 
by artillery and mortar fire. The 2d Battal- 
ion was now almost within view of Troop 
C's isolated perimeter and had attained 
an apparently excellent position from which 
to launch a counterattack to relieve the cav- 
alry unit. 35 

35 127th Inf Jnl file, 10-31 Jul 44; 2d Bn 127th 
Inf, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44. Kwamagnirk was originally 
a hamlet of five or six native huts. It and two other 
even smaller settlements in the same area had been 
so pounded by artillery and mortar fire that its exact 
location was and is impossible to determine, but it is 
assumed to be in the position depicted on the 1 :63, 
360 map used by the Persecution Task and Cov- 
ering Forces. 



CHAPTER VIII 



The Battle of the Driniumor 
Phase II: The 18th Army Retreats 



Securing the Afua Area 

With the arrival of the 1st and 2d Bat- 
talions, 127th Infantry, in his area, General 
Cunningham decided to make another at- 
tempt to relieve Troop C, 112th Cavalry. 1 
The latter's position had been uncertain for 
two days, but it was definitely located on the 
morning of the 23d on the basis of a report 
from the platoon of Company I, 127th In- 
fantry. Having reached Troop C on the 
evening of the 21st, this platoon had suc- 
ceeded in fighting its way through Japanese 
lines to South Force's command post on the 
23d. General Cunningham now sent part of 
the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, to relieve 
Troops A and B, 1 1 2th Cavalry, from their 



1 Unless otherwise indicated, information in this 
section and its subdivisions is from: 112th Cav Opns 
Rpt Aitape, pp. 9-14; 112th Cav Opns and Int 
Diary Aitape; 112th Cav Sum of Msgs, 1-29 Jul 
44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, Sec. II, pp. 7-11; 
127th Inf Jnl file, 10-31 Jul 44; 1st, 2d, and 3d 
Bn 127th Inf Jnls, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; PTF G-3 
Jnls, 21-26 Jul and 26 Jul-1 Aug 44; PCF G-3 
Jnls, 22-25, 25-27, 27-31 Jul, and 31 Jul-5 Aug 
44; 18th Army Opns, III, 107-08, 111, 120-25, 
130—38, 156—59 (which include, inter alia, transla- 
tions of MO Opns Orders 24, 34, 37, and 49, dated 
between 21 and 31 Jul 44) ; PW interrogs and trans 
of enemy docs in PTF and Eastern Sector G-2 Jnls, 
Jul and Aug 44; Japanese Studies in WW II, 47, 
18th Army Operations, Annex B, Maps 32, 36, and 
37, copy in OCMH files. 



positions north of Afua. The two cavalry 
units were to attack west toward Troop C 
and, simultaneously, the 2d Battalion, 1 27th 
Infantry, was to push southeast toward the 
isolated troop. 

The Relief of Troop C 

The double envelopment started early in 
the afternoon of the 23d. At first, the attacks 
of the cavalry and infantry units were 
closely co-ordinated, orders to both being 
issued through a radio aboard an artillery 
liaison plane hovering overhead. But shortly 
after the combined attack began, Troops A 
and B had to retire eastward to avoid fire 
from the advancing infantry battalion. 
Troop A thereupon turned south and retook 
Afua against light opposition. During the 
afternoon the two cavalry units established 
new defenses around Afua, extending their 
lines about 300 yards west of the village. 2 

About 1500 the 2d Battalion, 127th In- 
fantry, having encountered only scattered 

' During the early part of Troop A's action, 2d 
Lt. George W. G. Boyce, Jr., one of the troop's pla- 
toon leaders, threw himself on an enemy hand gre- 
nade which fell between him and some of his men. 
Saving these men from almost certain death or seri- 
ous wounds, Lieutenant Boyce was himself killed. 
For this action, he was awarded, posthumously, the 
Congressional Medal of Honor. 




THE AFUA AREA 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



179 



resistance, moved into Troop C's perimeter 
from the northwest, just as the Japanese 
launched a strong attack from the south- 
west. Darkness came before all the enemy 
had been repulsed, and plans for the battal- 
ion's further advance had to be abandoned. 
The combined perimeter was harassed by 
mortar fire throughout the night, as were 
the two cavalry units at Afua. 

Early on 24 July the 2d Battalion sent 
patrols out from the perimeter — patrols 
which reported strong enemy defenses on 
high ground to the north and south. At- 
tempts by the 2d Battalion and Troop C to 
break through enemy lines to the southeast 
and the Afua-Palauru trail were unavail- 
ing, as was an effort by Company B, 127th 
Infantry, to move southwest from General 
Cunningham's command post area to the 
combined infantry-cavalry position. Com- 
pany E, 127th Infantry, trying to move 
northeast from the perimeter to establish 
contact with Company B, could get no place. 
The Japanese were tenaciously defending 
all tracks, trails, and ridge lines in the 
heavily jungled ground northeast of the 
perimeter. 

General Gill, who thought South Force 
had sufficient troops to drive off the Japa- 
nese without difficulty, was by now dissatis- 
fied with the situation in the Afua area. He 
apparently believed that South Force was 
not making a strong enough effort to clear 
the ground north and northwest of Afua, 
and there was a definite feeling at his head- 
quarters that the situation around Afua was 
by no means critical. His G-2 Section esti- 
mated that the Japanese in the Afua area 
comprised only remnants of the 78th In- 
fantry trying to break back through the 
restored Driniumor line to the east. If this 
were not the case, said General Gill's G-2 
officers, then the Japanese at Afua were 



merely stragglers attempting to raid South 
Force bivouacs for food. 

But General Cunningham thought that 
the Japanese on his right and rear comprised 
elements of both the 78th and 80th Infantry 
Regiments, which, he believed, were trying 
to outflank South Force and seize control of 
the Afua-Palauru trail. He felt that South 
Force was doing everything possible to drive 
the Japanese away, but, as he pointed out to 
General Gill, the enemy was dug in on com- 
manding ground throughout hilly and heav- 
ily jungled terrain northwest, west, and 
southwest of Afua, making it necessary to 
reduce each position by slow and costly in- 
fantry assault. Finally, said General Cun- 
ningham, the 127th Infantry had not yet 
been able to deploy its entire strength for 
further attacks and was therefore not bear- 
ing a full share of the necessary fighting. 3 

General Cunningham's estimates were 
far closer to the truth than those at Perse- 
cution Covering Force headquarters, al- 
though even the South Force commander 
was underestimating the Japanese scale of 
effort. By 24 July the Miyake Force had 
been concentrated north and northwest of 
Afua behind South Force. General Miyake 
had under his command over 1,000 men — 
remnants of the 20th Division units which 
had crossed the Driniumor on the night of 
10-11 July and during the next day or two. 
Moreover, relatively fresh troops of the 79th 
Infantry, 20th Division, and division head- 
quarters were now in the Afua area. By eve- 
ning of the 24th, there were at least 2,000 

3 The account of the attitude at General Gill's 
headquarters is based on statements made in PCF 
G-2 documents and in messages from PCF to South 
Force in PCF G-3 Jnls. Evidence of General Cun- 
ningham's attitude is derived from: Interv, author 
with Gen Cunningham, Apr 47; Interv, author with 
Col Hooper, 25 Mar 47 ; Ltr, Comdr South Force to 
Rangoon Six [Comdr PCF], 30 Jul 44, sub; Opns 
South Sector, copy in OCMH files. 



180 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Japanese troops on South Force's right flank 
and rear. 

South Force operations on 25 July met 
with more success than had been antici- 
pated, for very heavy fighting had been ex- 
pected. Early that morning Companies B 
and E, 127th Infantry, established contact 
about 500 yards north-northeast of the 2d 
Battalion-Troop C perimeter. Over the 
escape route thus opened, Troop C with- 
drew to the dropping ground, ending its 
four days of continuous combat against su- 
perior Japanese forces. The unit had lost 
about thirty men frqm Japanese action and 
from sickness during the period. 

Afua and the Triangle 

With Troop C relieved, General Cun- 
ningham decided to exploit the success of 
the early morning action and launch an at- 
tack south and west from the dropping 
ground. His plan was to clear the area be- 
tween that ground and the 2d Battalion's 
position by pushing all Japanese found in 
the area to the region south of the Afua— 
Palauru trail and on into the Torricelli 
Mountains. 

About 1 100 Company A, 127th Infantry, 
moved into position at the western edge of 
the dropping ground and faced south. Com- 
pany B lined up on A's right and Company 
E on B's right, at the edge of a series of 
jungled ridges. Company C was in reserve. 
One platoon of Company G was to main- 
tain contact between Companies B and E, 
which were separated by some 200 yards of 
thick jungle. The 2d Battalion (less Com- 
pany E and the Company G platoon) was 
to remain at the old Troop C perimeter until 
sure that no more Japanese were in that 
area. Then it was to push south to the Afua- 
Palauru trail west of Company E. 



The attack began about 1 1 30. Com- 
panies B and E soon met strong opposition, 
but Company A, closely followed by Com- 
pany C, moved rapidly toward the Afua- 
Palauru trail, encountering only scattered 
rifle fire and reaching the trail late in the 
afternoon at a point about 300 yards west 
of Afua. There it tied its left into the lines 
of the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry (back 
in Afua since the 23d) , and pushed its right 
about 200 yards west along the trail to the 
left flank of Company B, which had not yet 
been able to bring its entire strength up to 
the Afua-Palauru trail. On B's right, the 
Japanese held a strong point on a low 
ridge over which the trail passed, and the 
company had to bend its lines about 150 
yards to the north and west around this 
enemy position. 

Company E and the Company G platoon, 
meeting increasing resistance, reached the 
2d Battalion perimeter in the early after- 
noon and joined the rest of the battalion in 
a drive south toward the Afua-Palauru trail. 
By dusk the battalion had crossed the trail 
and was digging in about 100 yards south of 
that track. There was a gap of at least 100 
yards between the left of the 2d Battalion 
and the lines of Company B, and there was 
another gap on the battalion's right, or west, 
flank, where Company G had been cut off 
during the move south. At nightfall the com- 
pany was located on a ridge crossing the trail 
about 150 yards northwest of the main body 
and about 800 yards west of Afua, near the 
old Troop C perimeter. 

The advance south had been generally 
successful, but by late afternoon there were 
clear indications that many Japanese troops 
remained in a triangular area formed by the 
dropping ground, Afua, and Company G's 
ridge-line position. Rifle fire, intensifying 
as darkness approached, harassed the rear 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE I8TH ARMY RETREATS 



181 



and right flank of the two battalions, and 
the Japanese began intermittently to drop 
light artillery or mortar shells into the ba- 
nana patch area, where the command posts 
of South Force, the 1 1 2th Cavalry, and the 
127th Infantry were now located. Finally, 
Japanese patrols, coming in from the west, 
had scouted the banana patch area during 
the day, action which seemed to presage an 
enemy attack during the night. To get out 
of range of the enemy fire and danger of 
enemy attack, General Cunningham moved 
the command post installations 500 yards to 
the north before dark. 

During the night an unknown number of 
Japanese troops moved around the right rear 
of the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, join- 
ing enemy units which had been bypassed 
the preceding afternoon. By early morning 
on the 26th, these troops had secured control 
of trails leading southeast through heavy 
jungle from the banana patch to a point on 
the Afua-Palauru trail near the 2d Battal- 
ion's command post. Meanwhile, 127th In- 
fantry patrols had found a Japanese map 
which indicated that the 66th Infantry, 51 st 
Division, was concentrating in the Kwamag- 
nirk area. 

As a result of the information concerning 
the 66th Infantry and because of the grow- 
ing Japanese activity south and west of the 
banana patch, General Cunningham de- 
cided to change South Force dispositions. 
The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, was with- 
drawn from its lines along the Afua-Palauru 
trail and sent back to the dropping ground 
where it established a new westward-facing 
perimeter in expectation of Japanese attacks 
from that direction. The 2d Battalion ex- 
tended its lines to the east to cover the area 
vacated by the 1st, and at the same time 
managed to eliminate the Japanese salient 
which had held up Company B the previous 



afternoon. Efforts to extend the 2d Battal- 
ion's lines west to Company G were unsuc- 
cessful, and at nightfall on the 26th that unit 
was still in its isolated ridge outpost 150 
yards from the main body. 

All day on the 26th Japanese troops 
milled around in the rear — north and north- 
west — of the 2d Battalion. At the same time 
the battalion received continuous harassing 
rifle and machine gun fire from the south, 
its front. It was expected that the Japanese 
might attack from the south and west during 
the afternoon, and plans were made for the 
2d Battalion's withdrawal to Afua if the 
enemy attacked from more than one direc- 
tion. However, the enemy scale of effort in 
the afternoon did not seem to warrant such 
a withdrawal. The battalion therefore re- 
mained in its positions and managed to push 
its lines slightly south. General Cunningham 
alerted all South Force to expect an enemy 
attack on the night of 26-27 July, but the 
hours of darkness proved almost abnormally 
quiet. 

Nevertheless, General Cunningham's re- 
dispositions and plans to withdraw the 2d 
Battalion, 127th Infantry, had been well 
advised. Despite heavy losses from combat, 
starvation, and disease in the Driniumor 
area, General Adachi was still determined to 
clear the Afua area, and continually sent 
fresh troops across the river south of that 
village. The 66th Infantry, which, with at- 
tached units, was at least 1,000 men strong, 
had crossed the Driniumor on or about 24 
July. Bypassing the right flank of South 
Force, the regiment had moved into the 
heavily jungled high ground west of the 
banana patch and dropping ground. In ad- 
dition, the remnants of the 237th Infantry, 
probably about 300 men strong, had finally 
arrived in the Afua area on 25 July and had 
passed to the control of the Miyake Force. 



182 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Rear elements of the 20th Division, includ- 
ing additional men from the 26th Field Artil- 
lery and engineer units, had also crossed the 
Driniumor south of Afua. The number of 
Japanese troops in the South Force area by 
nightfall on the 26th of July was at least 
2,500 and may have been over 3,000. 

Actually, neither the Japanese nor South 
Force had any accurate knowledge of each 
other's strengths and dispositions in the Afua 
area. Each side complained that the other 
held isolated strong points, none of which 
appeared to be key positions. Both sides em- 
ployed inaccurate maps, and both had a 
great deal of difficulty obtaining effective 
reconnaissance. In the jungled, broken ter- 
rain near Afua, operations frequently took 
a vague form — a sort of shadow boxing in 
which physical contact of the opposing sides 
was ofttimes accidental. 

On the morning of the 27th General Cun- 
ningham decided to use the 2d Battalion, 
1 27th Infantry, to resume an advance south- 
ward to locate Japanese forces below the 
Afua-Palauru trail and to overrun an en- 
emy observation post on high ground about 
500 yards southwest of Afua. After artillery 
fire on suspected enemy assembly areas south 
of its lines, the 2d Battalion started moving 
at 1000. Only scattered rifle fire was en- 
countered and by 1245 the battalion had 
taken the observation post. A new defensive 
line, anchored on the Driniumor near Afua 
and lying generally 400 yards south of the 
Afua-Palauru trail, was set up. The battal- 
ion's right flank was about 800 yards west 
of the river, near the outpost of Company 
G, which had not participated in the south- 
ward drive. 

General Cunningham had wanted the 2d 
Battalion to develop its new line as a base 
for future operations, but Japanese troops 
moved onto the Afua-Palauru trail behind 



the battalion, threatening its communica- 
tions, and the unit was therefore ordered to 
return to the morning line of departure. 
Since the enemy made little effort to hold 
his trail positions, this withdrawal was ac- 
complished without incident by 1800. An 
outpost of platoon size was left on a ridge 
about 200 yards southwest of Afua. The 
rest of the battalion, still less Company G, 
dug in along the Afua-Palauru trail in es- 
sentially the same positions it had occupied 
the previous night. Meanwhile, the 66th In- 
fantry had. become active in the high ground 
300 yards west of the dropping ground and 
banana patch, and elements of that unit or 
the Miyake Force again began patrolling 
along the jungle tracks leading southwest 
from the banana patch. During the morning 
Japanese patrols armed with light machine 
guns occupied two low ridge lines west and 
southwest of the dropping ground, while 
other enemy groups moved into high ground 
immediately west of South Force's new com- 
mand post area. 

Since these Japanese maneuvers seriously 
threatened the safety of South Force com- 
mand and supply installations, General Cun- 
ningham ordered the 1st Battalion, 127th 
Infantry, and part of the 1st Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, to clear the enemy from the 
high ground. By late afternoon these units, 
by dint of foot-by-foot advances against 
stubborn opposition, had cleared the Japa- 
nese from three strong ridge-line positions 
west and southwest of the dropping ground. 
This action gained at least temporary secur- 
ity for South Force's supply base and appar- 
ently discouraged the 66th Infantry from 
making any more attacks for the time being. 

The next morning, 28 July, the 1st Bat- 
talion, 127th Infantry, continued mopping 
up west of the dropping ground and oc- 
cupied some enemy ridge defenses which 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



183 



had held out overnight. The rest of South 
Force engaged in local patrolling without 
finding any trace of sizable, well-armed 
groups of Japanese, but General Gunning- 
ham remained certain that large-scale Japa- 
nese attacks were imminent. He therefore 
decided to shorten his lines to obtain stronger 
defenses and to secure a base of operations 
for further attempts to clear enemy troops 
from the Afua-dropping ground-Company 
G triangle. 

Late in the afternoon, in accordance with 
these plans, the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, 
moved north and set up a new westward- 
facing defensive line running south from the 
dropping ground and the 1st Battalion's left. 
This line lay generally 200 yards west of the 
Driniumor. The 3d Battalion and the 2d 
Squadron, 112th Cavalry, remained in their 
river defenses. The 1st Squadron withdrew 
north and northwest from Afua, tied its 
right into the 2d Battalion's left, and estab- 
lished a new line running generally southeast 
to the 2d Squadron's right, anchored on the 
Driniumor about 2,000 yards north of Afua. 
With the exception of Company G, which 
remained in an isolated perimeter on the 
ridge west of Afua, South Force was now in 
a long, oval-shaped perimeter, ready to meet 
Japanese attacks from any direction. For the 
third time in seventeen days Afua had been 
abandoned to the Japanese. 

The next morning the 1 st Squadron and 
the 2d Battalion started a co-ordinated at- 
tack south and west into the Afua-dropping 
ground-Company G triangle. The 1st 
Squadron encountered no opposition as it 
pushed south along the west bank of the 
Driniumor and quickly reoccupied the river 
line to within 300 yards of Afua. The cav- 
alry unit then halted until the infantry 
battalion had moved equally far south. The 
latter had been delayed along the diagonal 



track leading southwest from the banana 
patch, and a dangerous gap had been cre- 
ated between the two arms of the advance. 

The 2d Battalion's attack had started at 
0900, with Company F on the left (east) 
and Company E on the right. Small patrols, 
moving along ridge lines west of the main 
line of advance, protected Company E's 
right. The battalion's progress was slow 
since the Japanese had set up trail blocks 
along the diagonal track, and since it was 
also necessary to probe the rough, jungled 
terrain on both sides for hidden enemy 
strong points. Company E, about 1015, 
found itself halted by a Japanese position 
containing infantrymen estimated at com- 
pany strength. In an attempt to carry this 
position by fire and movement, the unit lost 
7 men killed and 9 wounded. Company E 
withdrew about 200 yards to the north and 
called for artillery and 81 -mm. mortar sup- 
port. This fire was soon forthcoming and 
Company E moved forward again at 1400. 
A few slight gains were made, but the Japa- 
nese, who had established a defense in 
depth, clung tenaciously to every foot of 
ground and the advance was again halted. 
More artillery fire was placed on the sus- 
pected locations of enemy strong points, and 
Company E started southward for a third 
time about 1530. 

While Company E was deploying to be- 
gin its third attack, the entire right flank 
of the 2d Battalion was harassed by Japa- 
nese patrols. As a result the 1530 advance 
could not develop, and about 1800 the right 
flank units of the battalion withdrew. While 
this withdrawal was under way, an esti- 
mated two companies of enemy infantry 
struck from a low jungled ridge immedi- 
ately west of Company E. Company F had 
not met much opposition during the day but 
had moved slowly southward so as not to 



]84 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



lose contact with the rest of the battalion. 
Now it was withdrawn into the main bat- 
talion perimeter to aid in throwing back the 
enemy attack from the west. A sharp fire 
fight took place on the battalion's right, and 
2 men were killed, 39 wounded, and 9 were 
counted as missing. Total casualties for the 
day were 11 killed, 50 wounded, and 9 
missing. 

Though harassing by enemy patrols con- 
tinued, the 2d Battalion was successful in 
beating back the main attack after some 
twenty minutes of hard fighting. General 
Cunningham felt that the battalion had 
done all that could be expected of it during 
the day and ordered it to withdraw to the 
dropping ground. This retreat, begun about 
1930, was accomplished during the night of 
29-30 July, and the battalion reached the 
dropping ground about 0830 on the latter 
day. Because this withdrawal left the 1st 
Squadron exposed to attacks from the north- 
west and west, the latter unit was withdrawn 
to the lines of the 2d Squadron, north of 
Afua. 

During the 30th and 31st of July only 
local patrol action was carried out by most 
units of South Force as General Cunning- 
ham prepared plans for another offensive 
into the triangle. Major combat activity re- 
volved around the withdrawal of Company 
G, 127th Infantry, from its exposed outpost 
west of Afua. On the afternoon of the 29th 
the unit had been driven more than 400 
yards east of its original position by Japanese 
attacks and had established new defenses on 
high ground about 300 yards west of Afua. 
On the 30th the company was surrounded 
and spent all day fighting off a series of 
small-scale attacks. The next morning it 
fought its way north to the dropping ground, 
where it arrived about 1330. Thence, it 



moved on to the Driniumor and joined the 
rest of the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, 
which had switched positions with the 3d 
Battalion. 

South Force's oval-shaped perimeter now 
varied in depth from 400 to 800 yards. The 
2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, was on the 
north, facing the river but with its left flank 
bent westward. On the Driniumor south of 
the 2d Battalion was the 2d Squadron, 1 1 2th 
Cavalry, the lines of which now reached to 
within 1,500 yards of Afua. Extending 
about 400 yards west of the 2d Squadron's 
right flank was Troop C of the 1st Squad- 
ron. The rest of the 1st Squadron faced west 
and anchored its north flank on the banana 
patch. North of the 1st Squadron were the 
1st and 3d Battalions, 127th Infantry, ex- 
tending the western side of South Force's 
perimeter north through the dropping 
ground, 500 yards beyond to General Cun- 
ningham's command post, and to the north 
tip of the 2d Battalion's lines. 

During the period from 13 to 31 July, 
South Force had suffered almost 1,000 cas- 
ualties, of which 260 had been incurred by 
the 112th Cavalry. For the understrength 
cavalry regiment, this was a casualty rate of 
over 17 percent. The 2d Battalion, 127th 
Infantry, had also lost heavily and was in 
need of rest, reorganization, and re-equip- 
ment — needs which had prompted General 
Cunningham to change the places of the 2d 
and 3d Battalions, 127th Infantry. South 
Force casualties were as follows : 1 06 killed, 
386 wounded, 18 missing, and 426 evacu- 
ated as a result of disease and sickness. South 
Force estimated that it had killed over 700 
Japanese. 4 

4 These casualty figures are from Ltr, Comdr 
South Force to Comdr PCF, 30 Jul 44, sub: Opns 
South Sector, copy in OCMH files. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



185 



Allied and Japanese Plans 

General Cunningham planned to start a 
new attack on 1 August, with Company K, 
127th Infantry, and Troop G, 112th Cav- 
alry, moving southwest from the dropping 
ground in a reconnaissance in force to the 
Afua— Palauru trail. The two units were to 
probe for enemy defenses, avoid battle, and 
return to the dropping ground to report 
their findings before dark on the 1st. The 
entire 3d Battalion and one cavalry troop 
were to be combined in a striking force for 
an attack into the triangle on 2 August, aim- 
ing for objectives selected during the pre- 
vious day's reconnaissance. Not even the 
preliminary steps of this plan could be exe- 
cuted. For days the Japanese had been 
bringing reinforcements forward to the Afua 
area to make further efforts to roll up South 
Force's right flank, efforts which were to 
necessitate many changes in General Cun- 
ningham's plans. 

Despite continued lack of success in 
achieving decisive results at Afua, and 
though by the 25th of the month it had be- 
gun to appear to General Adachi that the 
20th Division and Miyake Force could not 
secure even the Afua area, the 18th Army 
had not given up along the Driniumor. The 
18th Army commander had already devised 
a plan to send all elements of the 41st Divi- 
sion still east of the Driniumor across that 
river via the Kawanaka Shima crossing. This 
move was to entail operations by the 238th 
Infantry, the 239th Infantry, the 41st Engi- 
neer Regiment, the 41st Mountain Artillery 
Regiment, and the bulk of the 8th Independ- 
ent Engineer Regiment, part of which was 
already west of the Driniumor with the 20th 
Division. Once across the Driniumor, the 
4 1st Division units were to establish contact 



with the remnants of the 237th Infantry, 
send some men south toward the 20th Divi- 
sion to help cut American lines of communi- 
cation, and mount new attacks on the 
Anamo— Tiver area. 

On the afternoon of 25 July General 
Adachi himself moved up to the 41st Divi- 
sion's command post (apparently located on 
Niumen Creek east of Kawanaka Shima) to 
supervise that unit's preparations for attack. 
The 18th Army commander soon discovered 
that the 4lst Division was in no condition to 
assault the center of the Driniumor line and, 
at the same time, he learned that the opera- 
tions of the 20th Division in the Afua area 
were not going as well as had been expected. 
Considering how best to employ the 41st 
Division, he decided to send that unit south 
along the east bank of the Driniumor, have 
it cross the river south of Afua, join the 20th 
Division on the west side, and participate in 
a two-division attack to secure the Drini- 
umor area from Afua north to the junction 
of the Anamo-Afua trail with the river. 

Accordingly, on the morning of 26 July, 
General Adachi issued orders for the 41st 
Division to start moving south. The 1st Bat- 
talion, 239th Infantry, was left in the Ka- 
wanaka Shima area to set up a counter- 
reconnaissance screen and to put up a show 
of strength designed to deceive the Perse- 
cution Covering Force as to the intentions 
of the rest of the division. The remainder 
of the 239th Infantry, together with division 
headquarters, the 238th Infantry, and the 
engineer and artillery troops started south at 
1 600 on the 26th, aiming for a ford across 
the Driniumor south of Afua. 

Final orders for the two-division attack 
west of the Driniumor were issued by the 
18th Army on 28 July, orders which were 
based on expectations that the 41st Division 



186 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



could complete its redeployment in time for 
the attack to begin on the evening of the 
30th. This was too optimistic. The 238th 
Infantry, the 41st Mountain Artillery, and 
the 8th Independent Engineers were across 
the river in time but the 2d and 3d Battal- 
ions, 239th Infantry, had missed the cross- 
ing point on the Driniumor and were lost. 
Fortunately for the 18th Army, the South 
Force withdrawals on 29 and 30 July gave 
the 20th and 41st Divisions time to complete 
their organization. New orders were issued 
for the attack to start on 1 August, with the 
20th Division on the west and the 41st Divi- 
sion on the east. The strength that the 20th 
Division (including the 66th Infantry, the 
26th Field Artillery, the bulk of the 37th 
Independent Engineers, the 20th Engineers, 
remnants of the 237th Infantry, and various 
small service units) could muster for the 
attack was a little over 2,000 men. Most of 
these troops had been without food for some 
time. They were suffering from starvation, 
malaria, and skin diseases, and morale was 
cracking. They were short of both ammuni- 
tion and weapons. The 41st Division and its 
attached units, totaling nearly 1,750 men 
by the morning of 1 August, were in equally 
bad shape. Nevertheless, General Adachi 
was determined to make one last attack with 
the nearly 4,000 troops now available to 
him in the Afua area. 5 



B The foregoing strength figures have been de- 
rived from a mass of contradictory data, both Allied 
and Japanese, and it is impossible to determine how 
many of the Japanese troops could be called in- 
fantry effectives. It appears, however, that about 
2,200 of the troops across the river as of 1 August 
were members of infantry regiments. The total es- 
timate of nearly 4,000 men may be wrong by as 
much as 1,000 in either direction, but the evidence 
tends to indicate that the figure is too low rather 
than too high. By no means all of the 4,000 actually 
participated in the 1 August attacks. 



The Japanese Retreat from Afua 

At 0620 on 1 August, about two com- 
panies of Japanese attacked from the south- 
west against the lines of Troop C, 112th 
Cavalry, situated about 1,500 yards north of 
Afua. General Cunningham immediately 
canceled the planned reconnaissance in force 
into the triangle area and turned his atten- 
tion to this new threat. The first Japanese 
assault units were quickly reinforced, and 
the enemy moved forward against Troop C 
in massed waves along a narrow front. A 
bloody battle ensued as the enemy, appar- 
ently determined to commit suicide, con- 
tinued his mass attacks. South Force called 
for artillery support, which was quickly 
forthcoming and which greatly helped 
Troop C to throw back the enemy assaults. 

By 0800 the Japanese had withdrawn 
and the battle area had become strangely 
quiet. Patrols were sent out from the cav- 
alry perimeter to reconnoiter. These parties 
counted 180 dead Japanese in front of 
Troop C's lines, and it was considered prob- 
able that the enemy had carried off many 
more dead and wounded. Troop C, on the 
other hand, had lost but 5 men killed and 6 
wounded. Examination of the enemy dead 
disclosed that elements of both the 80th and 
238th Infantry Regiments had participated 
in the attacks. 

About 0830 Troop G moved southwest 
out of the Troop C area to undertake part 
of the planned reconnaissance in force. The 
troop patrolled 600 yards to the southwest 
and returned to Troop C early in the after- 
noon, having encountered only scattered 
rifle fire. Meanwhile, a platoon of,Gompany 
K, 127th Infantry, had patrolled to high 
ground west of the dropping ground. Upon 
its return to South Force lines at 1600, this 
unit reported only minor opposition. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



187 



General Cunningham interpreted the lull 
in fighting after 0800 as an indication that 
the Japanese might be assembling stronger 
forces for another attack. Documents cap- 
tured by Troop G and Company K patrols 
during the day supported this idea, and dis- 
closed that the Japanese might launch an 
offensive during the night of 1-2 August or 
early on the 2d. About 0300 on the 2d, 
Troop G (which had moved to the south- 
west edge of the dropping ground the pre- 
vious evening) was subjected to a small at- 
tack. This action turned out to be but a 
minor skirmish and General Cunningham 
suspected that it was a reconnaissance ma- 
neuver in preparation for a stronger attack. 
In anticipation of such an assault the re- 
mainder of the 2d Squadron was removed 
from its river positions and disposed as a 
mobile reserve at the South Force's com- 
mand post. The 2d Battalion, 127th Infan- 
try, stretched its lines to cover the river 
positions vacated by the cavalry. 

Although the movement of the 2d Squad- 
ron had apparently been well advised, the 
Japanese did not attack the command post 
area. Instead, at 1900, elements of the 41st 
Division struck the 1st Battalion, 127th In- 
fantry, at its lines south of the dropping 
ground. This attack was preceded by fire 
from a 70-mm. or 75-mm. artillery piece 
which the Japanese had managed to sneak 
into the area within 150 yards of Company 
B, 127th Infantry. Following a few rounds 
from this weapon, Japanese infantry 
charged forward in four separate waves, em- 
ploying perhaps 300 men on a very narrow 
front. Few of the enemy got near Com- 
pany B's positions, for the attack was thrown 
back with artillery, mortar, and machine 
gun fire, which caused heavy losses among 
the enemy forces. By 2030, action in the 
dropping ground area stopped for the night. 



The 1st Squadron, 1 12th Cavalry, on the 
left rear of the 1 st Battalion, was attacked by 
another group of Japanese at 1 945. This ac- 
tion was probably meant to have been co- 
ordinated with the attack on Company B, 
but, if this were the enemy's intention, some- 
thing had gone wrong. Apparently there had 
also been some mix-up in unit dispositions, 
for both enemy efforts had entailed the use 
of elements of the 78th, 80th, and 238th In- 
fantry Regiments. After the day's action was 
finished, the combined effective strength of 
the first two units was probably not more 
than 250 men, and the 2d Battalion, 238th 
Infantry, was practically wiped out. The 
desperate attacks during the day had been 
carried out with a complete disregard for 
self-preservation, and had probably cost the 
Japanese 300 men killed and at least twice 
that number wounded. 

During the early hours of the next morn- 
ing, 3 August, the 1st Battalion, 127th In- 
fantry, again heard enemy activity to its 
front, and about 0730 a small Japanese 
party struck between Companies A and C. 
This attack was quickly repulsed, principally 
by mortar fire from 1st Battalion units. By 
noon all activity in the 1st Battalion area 
had ceased, and the Japanese had with- 
drawn to the southwest. The rest of the day 
was quiet in the South Force sector. In the 
afternoon reinforcements arrived for South 
Force as the 1st Battalion, 169th Infantry, 
moved into the perimeter from Palauru. The 
new arrivals took up defensive positions on 
the north flank, facing west behind the river 
lines of the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry. 

The arrival of reinforcements did not 
result in any relaxation of vigilance on Gen- 
eral Cunningham's part, for he expected 
more enemy attacks. A great deal of Japa- 
nese movement across the Driniumor south 
of Afua had been observed by patrols dur- 



188 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ing the day, and recently captured prisoners 
reported that the 238th and 239th Infantry 
Regiments were to resume the offensive on 
4 and 5 August. The South Force com- 
mander warned all his units to remain alert. 

At 0615 on the 4th, elements of the 41st 
Division, probably supported by a few men 
from the 20th Division, streamed out of the 
jungle southwest of the 1st Squadron, 1 12th 
Cavalry, in a last desperate charge appar- 
ently designed to cover the withdrawal of 
other 18th Army remnants east of the 
Driniumor. The initial Japanese attacks 
were well co-ordinated but they soon degen- 
erated into a series of small, independent, 
suicidal assaults. Violent action continued in 
front of the 1st Squadron for about two 
hours, during which time nearly 200 Japa- 
nese were killed at the very edge of the 
squadron perimeter, principally by machine 
gun and rifle fire. How many more of the 
enemy were killed by artillery and mortar 
fire during the period cannot be estimated, 
but the banzai tactics undoubtedly cost the 
Japanese more than the 200 dead counted 
in front of the 1st Squadron which, in the 
same two hours, lost only 3 men killed and 
4 wounded. 

By 0900 the last enemy attacks had ceased 
and the remaining Japanese had withdrawn 
generally to the south. Troop E, moving 
south across the front of the 1st Squadron 
in pursuit of the retreating enemy, encount- 
ered only scattered rifle fire and could find 
only nine enemy stragglers, all of whom they 
killed. In the afternoon other patrols of the 
2d Squadron, operating on the east bank 
of the Driniumor opposite Af ua, established 
contact with elements of the 1 24th Infantry, 
which was completing a wide enveloping 
movement east of the Driniumor. On orders 
from Headquarters, Persecution Cover- 
ing Force, General Cunningham now began 



to plan final mopping up in the Afua area 
by co-ordinated operations of South Force 
and the 124th Infantry. 

Envelopment to the East 

Even before the Japanese had begun to 
withdraw from the Afua area, General Hall 
had prepared plans to carry out the final 
part of the mission assigned to him by 
Alamo Force — a strong counteroffensive 
against the 18th Army. 6 On 29 July, despite 
(or perhaps because of) the still unsettled 
situation around Afua, General Hall had 
decided that the time was ripe to launch the 
counterattack. For this purpose, he decided 
to employ the entire 124th Infantry, rein- 
forced by the 2d Battalion, 169th Infantry. 
The 2d Battalion, 124th Infantry, which 
had been patrolling in the Palauru— China- 
pelli area, was relieved from that duty by 
the 1st Battalion, 169th Infantry, and on 
the 30th joined its regiment at the Driniu- 
mor. The 2d Battalion, 169th Infantry, was 
already at the river. 7 

South Along Niumen Creek 

The plan of attack for the first phase of 
the counteroffensive was for the 124th In- 
fantry, reinforced, to move directly east 
from the Driniumor beginning at 0800 on 
3 1 July. 8 This attack was to be carried out 

8 Ltr OI, CG Alamo Force to CG XI Corps [PTF], 
25 Jun 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 27-29 
Jun 44. 

' The relief of the 2d Battalion, 1 24th Infantry, 
was accomplished on 29 July, and the battalion 
moved to Anamo the next day. On the afternoon of 
the 30th the battalion moved up to the mouth of 
the Driniumor. 

8 The description of the plan and the command 
for the envelopment to the east is based on: 124th 
Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 11-12; PCF FO 3, 29 Jul 
44, and Ted Force, Plan of Opns, 30 Jul 44, last 



Chart 12 — The Persecution Task Force: 31 July-11 August 1944 



31 July-10 Aujwf 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
(HtodquaiUn XI Corpi) 
Mo, Gen Charlti P. Hall 



Perim«t« Dilenn, PTE 



Weilein Sacior 
{Hrtodqtiorl-tri 43d 

Leonid F. Wing 



43d Infanlry DivtMon 
(lew eUmtnti 
wiis»cd la PTF 
Rcwrvc oiPCF) 

Maj. G«n, 
LtOnOFd F. Win3 



{Hfodqwittn 32d 
Inlonlry DivrtiorO 
Brig. G*a. 
Clartnee A. Mo? fin 



3Sd InfonMy Divi^iait 

vKijncd (o PTF 
R«*(v* or PCF) 
Mai. Otn. 

W.lliQTTl H. Gill 




South Fare* 
(Hfadqxrodrn 
MSrh Co-aliy RCTj 
Brig. Gen. 
Julian W. Cunningham 



Cayolry 
Col. Alexander 
M Milk* 




1S7iS Infaniiy 
Col Mcrl* H. Howe 



1 n Battalion, 
169lh Inlanlry 
(arrived an 4 August) 



3d tklKilion, 
H8fn InlanliY 
(aifivad on 6 Auguil) 



10-11 Avg«l 



HEADQUARTERS PERSECUTION TASK FORCE 
{HeadquarTcn XI Corpi) 
Maj. G.n.Cha.l«P. Hall 



Perimeter Defenw, RTF 



Wtiitrn 


Seel or 


(Headquarter* 43d 


Infantry I 




Maj. 
L*On<Jrd 


F. Win, 



43d Infantry Division 
(l»i elements 
owsned to PTF 
Reserve o« PCF) 



Eaifft*n S<r<ior 
(Hcadquarlen 32d 
Infantry Diviiion) 
Bng. Gen. 
Clarence A + Mailin 



32d Infantiy Diviiion 
(lew elements, 
aligned la PTF 



PtiHculion Coverin? fata 
Maj. Gin. William H. Gill 



1!8lh Infantry 
(Ihi 3d Battalion) 



1 1 Slh Csraliy 
Cel. Altjiandtt 
M, Milk, 



South Fate* 
(Headquarter* 
1 1SA Cavalry RCT) 
Brig. Gin. 
Julia* W. Cunningham 




1 27th Infantry 
Cel. Merle H. Hex 



lit Battalion 
I69fh Infantry 



3d Boilolion 
119lh Infantry 



190 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



with three battalions abreast along a front 
of 3,000 yards, and the fourth in reserve 
and in position to protect the right flank of 
the advancing force. The four battalions 
were to move east to the line of Niumen 
Creek, destroying all enemy found between 
that stream and the Driniumor within the 
3,000-yard-wide zone of responsibility. 
Upon their arrival on the Niumen the bat- 
talions were to reorganize and prepare for 
further advances either east or south upon 
orders from General Hall. 

Tactical control of the counteroffensive 
was vested in Col. Edward M. Starr, com- 
manding officer of the 124th Infantry, 
whose counterattack organization was to be 
known as Ted Force. 9 The 1st Battalion, 
124th Infantry, was commanded by Maj. 



two in PCF G-3 Jnl, 27-31 Jul 44; Ltrs, CO 124th 
Inf to CG 31st Div, 22 Jul and 13 Aug 44. Copies 
of these letters were lent to the author by Colonel 
Starr, ex-commanding officer of the 124th Infantry, 
but no copies exist in official files. According to the 
Starr letter of 13 August the plans for the envelop- 
ment were drawn up by the staff of the 124th In- 
fantry and approved in toto by task force headquar- 
ters prior to 29 July. 

9 Colonel Starr had succeeded General Stark as 
commander of North Force on 18 July when the 
arrival of elements of the 43d Division at Aitape 
made it necessary for General Stark, the assistant 
division commander, to move back to Blue Beach for 
administrative duties. General Stark apparently also 
reassumed command of the Western Sector, in 
place of General Hutchinson, Assistant Division 
Commander, 31st Division, who had rejoined his di- 
vision when it, less the 124th Infantry, moved to a 
new operational area in western New Guinea. When 
Ted Force was organized, North Force as such ap- 
parently ceased to exist, and the 128th Infantry took 
over the defensive functions previously assigned to 
North Force on the Driniumor. The name Ted Force 
originated from the diminutive for Colonel Starr's 
first name. There were always so many units from 
different divisions and regiments operating along the 
Driniumor that the task force usually found it more 
convenient to use names rather than numbers for 
unit designations. The names, usually derived from 
the commanding officers, served not only to lessen 
confusion but also did double duty as code names. 



Ralph D. Burns; 10 the 2d Battalion by Lt. 
Col. Robert M. Fowler; the 3d Battalion by 
Lt. Col. George D. Williams; and the 2d 
Battalion, 169th Infantry, by Maj. William 
F. Lewis. To avoid confusion, the four bat- 
talions were referred to by the last names of 
their commanders rather than by their num- 
ber designations. 

Fowler's battalion, attacking along the 
coast, was to be supplied by ration trains 
moving along the coastal trail from Anamo. 
The rest of Ted Force, pushing through 
trackless, dense jungle, was to be supplied 
by airdrop. The 149th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, augmented by the Cannon Com- 
pany, 124th Infantry, was responsible for 
artillery support, but when necessary the 
129th Field Artillery was to add its fire to 
that of the 149th. All the artillery units were 
emplaced on the beach west of the Drini- 
umor's mouth. The positions which the 
1 24th Infantry and the 2d Battalion, 169th 
Infantry, left vacant on the Driniumor were 
to be occupied by the 2d and 3d Battalions, 
128th Infantry. 

All three battalions of the 124th Infantry 
began crossing the Driniumor on schedule 
at 0800, 31 July, moving into terrain con- 
cerning which only incomplete and some- 
times inaccurate information was avail- 
able. 11 {Map 8) As a result, the records of 



M Placed in command of the 1st Battalion on the 
30th, the assigned commander having been sent to 
the hospital with a high fever. 

11 Principal sources used for the action of Amer- 
ican troops in this and the following subsections are : 
124th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 12-20, 124th Inf 
Jnl, 12 Jul-10 Aug 44, 12 Jul-10 Aug 44; Rpt by 
Maj Edward O. Logan [Ex-S-2 124th Inf], sub: 
The Enveloping Maneuver of the 124th Inf Regt 
East of the Driniumor, Aitape, New Guinea, 3 1 Jul- 
10 Aug 44, written at The Infantry School, Ft. Ben- 
ning, Ga., for The Advanced Officers' Course, 1946- 
47, copy in The Infantry School files; Extracts from 
3d Bn 124th Inf Jnl, Aitape, as cited in the Logan 
Rpt; 2d Bn 169th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 7-15; 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



191 



Ted Force are often inadequate and con- 
tradictory. Narrative reports and journals 
of the units engaged record many map and 
grid locations that are obviously erroneous 
and many others of doubtful value. It could 
hardly be otherwise. The available maps did 
not accurately depict the terrain and the two 
available sets, one a 1 : 20,000 photographic 
mozaic produced in May and the other a 
1 : 63,360 terrain map dated in January, 
were mutually irreconcilable at many points. 
Again, the units involved did not maintain 
as complete records as they would have in 
more static situations, for they did not have 
the means or time to do so. Each battalion 
engaged operated more or less separately, 
communicating almost entirely by radio 
without sending written reports and overlays 
back to higher headquarters. 

The situation in regard to locating units 
east of the Driniumor is well described by 
Maj. Edward A. Becker, the S-3 of the 1st 
Battalion, 124th Infantry, during the 
operation : 

We discovered, after leaving the Driniumor, 
that the only features that could be recognized 
on the map were the river, the coast line, and 
a trace of Niumen Creek; the rest of the op- 
erational area was just a mass of trees. . . . 
Because of this we knew we would have to find 
other means of identifying our location. We 
found the answer by using the two methods 
outlined below : 

(A) Twice a day the . . . [artillery liaison] 
plane would fly over our position and con- 
tact . . . [the artillery liaison officer]; he 
would let the pilot know when he was directly 
over us. The pilot would then fly to the Drini- 
umor, turn around and fly directly E [east]; as 

169th Inf S-3 Daily Rpts, 21 Jul-10 Aug 44; PCF 
G-3 Jnls, 27-31 Jul, 31 Jul-5 Aug, 5-9 Aug, and 
9-15 Aug 44; PTF G-3 Jnls, 26 Jul-1 Aug, 1-7 
Aug, and 7-16 Aug 44; Ltr, CO 124th Inf to CG 
31st Inf Div, 13 Aug 44; Ltr, Starr to Ward, 21 Aug 
51; Ltr, Becker to Starr, 13 Nov 50; 1st Bn 124th 
Inf in Aitape Campaign, pp. 11—17; 124th Inf, Our 
Regiment in 1944, pp. 47—54. 



he passed over us he would give us the dis- 
tance from the R [river]. He would then re- 
peat the procedure from the ocean by flying S 
[south] — the intersection of these lines would 
be our position. 

(B) To check the above method (the whole 
area was dotted with artillery registrations 
which had been previously fired) the pilot 
would circle our position and get the concen- 
tration number from the [artillery] intersection 
towers located on the coast. He would then re- 
lay the number to us in this manner — 200 yds 
E [yards east] of concentration 250 (we had 
these concentration No.'s [numbers] plotted 
on our maps) . This again would be our posi- 
tion ; if there was any appreciable difference in 
these two methods, then we would repeat the 
procedure until the error was found. . . . 12 

Determining which artillery units fired 
specific missions for Ted Force also presents 
difficulties, inasmuch as the records of both 
the artillery and infantry units provide con- 
tradictory information concerning times 
and concentrations and because the infantry 
units did not keep complete records of re- 
quests for artillery fire. It would appear that 
the available maps were so inaccurate that 
only by a major miracle was Ted Force 
saved from destruction by its own support- 
ing artillery. Actually, however, the situa- 
tion was not that bad. Most of the artillery 
fire was controlled quite accurately through 
the use of liaison planes. Ted Force infantry 
units would fire a few rounds of mortar fire 
into the area where an artillery concentra- 
tion was desired. The ubiquitous liaison 
planes would fly over the point and men in 
the observation towers on the coast, taking 
sights on the plane, would order fire on pre- 
viously mapped concentrations. Necessary 
adjustments were made by radio through 
the liaison aircraft. 

Such was the communications and map- 
ping picture that faced Ted Force as it 

a Ltr, Becker to Starr, 13 Nov 50. 



192 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



moved eastward from the Driniumor on 
31 July. Colonel Fowler's 2d Battalion ad- 
vanced along the beach, meeting no opposi- 
tion. Shortly after 1200 the main body 
reached the most westerly of Niumen 
Creek's two mouths — actually a swampy 
area about 3,000 yards east of the Driniu- 
mor. During the afternoon Fowler's lines 
were extended almost 1,200 yards up the 
Niumen, but no trace of Burns' 1st Battalion 
could be found. The latter unit's advance 
company had been held up about 800 yards 
east of the Driniumor by elements of the 1st 
Battalion, 239th Infantry, which had been 
left along the river when the rest of that 
Japanese regiment had moved south to 
Afua on 26 July. 13 Burns' men continued to 
encounter strong opposition from 239th In- 
fantry elements throughout the day and did 
not break off contact until 1730, when the 
battalion bivouacked for the night still 800 
yards west of Niumen Creek. Company A 
had become separated during the day and 
remained some 550 yards northwest of the 
main body for the night. Both sections of 
the battalion were out of touch with the rest 
of Ted Force. 

The 3d Battalion, 124th Infantry (Wil- 
liams), crossed the Driniumor at a point 
about 3,000 yards inland and reached the 
Niumen about 1400, having encountered 
only scattered rifle fire. Lewis' 2d Battalion, 
169th Infantry, which followed Williams' 
command, made no contact with the enemy 
and bivouacked for the night about 500 
yards west of Williams. All battalions spent 
the next day, 1 August, consolidating and 
patrolling along Neumen Creek, and Burns' 
unit moved up into line with the others, 

1J Information an Japanese units in this and the 
following subsections concerning Ted Force opera- 
tions is based on 18th Army Opns, III, 126-31, 134- 
39, 140-51, 156, 160. These pages include MO 
Opns Orders 38-56, 26 Jul-4 Aug 44. 



While this consolidation was going on, 
General Hall reached a decision as to fur- 
ther operations by Ted Force. Since the in- 
tensity of Japanese attacks on South Force 
had not yet decreased, the task force com- 
mander directed Ted Force to move south 
along Niumen Creek to the foothills of the 
Torricelli Mountains, nearly six miles in- 
land. All Japanese encountered were to be 
destroyed and the east-west trails which the 
enemy was using to supply and reinforce his 
troops at Afua were to be cut. After reach- 
ing the hills, Ted Force was to swing west 
toward a point on the Driniumor about 
2,000 yards south of Afua. If the Japanese 
activity near Afua had not abated by the 
time Ted Force reached the Driniumor, 
then the unit would cross the river, move 
northwest, and fall upon the rear of Japa- 
nese units harassing South Force. 

Colonel Starr's interpretation of the gen- 
eral mission and of the situation was as 
follows : 

To me, my first priority was to cut off the 
line of Japanese retreat, wherever it was, as 
well as the supply route of the enemy forces 
concentrating on Afua. Second priority was to 
destroy all enemy forces en route. Further 
based on my estimate of the situation and the 
enemy forces opposing me, as well as the ter- 
rain, I was convinced that any one of the four 
battalions under my control could take care of 
itself until support arrived if it became isolated 
or cut off. If properly handled this is a sound 
principle, of course, but considering the ob- 
stacles of terrain and weather, and the absence 
of a supply line and evacuation route, it was 
open to question. 14 

It was expected that movement south 
could start by 1100 on the 2d, but supply 
difficulties and the amount of time the bat- 
talions consumed getting into position along 
the line of departure ( a small western trib- 

14 Ltr, Starr to Ward, 21 Aug 51. 




MAP 8 



194 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



utary of the Niumen about 3,000 yards east 
of the junction of the Anamo-Afua trail 
with the Driniumor) prevented the realiza- 
tion of these hopes. Instead, Burns' and 
Fowler's units slowly moved south through 
heavily jungled terrain to Williams' perim- 
eter. Colonel Starr moved his headquarters 
from the mouth of the Driniumor to Wil- 
liams' area, and supplies were laboriously 
carried inland from the coast or airdropped 
at Williams' position. The night of 2-3 Au- 
gust proved quiet, and Ted Force made 
final preparations to attack south at 0800 on 
3 August. 

The advance started on schedule, with 
Williams' battalion on the left and Lewis' 
on the right. Burns' men followed Lewis' 
while Fowler's unit temporarily remained in 
reserve. Not more than 100 yards south of 
the line of departure both Williams' and 
Lewis' battalions encountered strong oppo- 
sition from troops of the 239th Infantry. 
The Japanese, depending for the most part 
on well-concealed riflemen to delay the ad- 
vance, maintained a tenacious defense 
throughout the day. Lewis' battalion out- 
flanked the Japanese in its zone and was 
able to advance about 900 yards by night- 
fall. Williams' unit gained only 300 yards 
during the day and bivouacked about 500 
yards to the left rear of Lewis' battalion. 
Contact between the two was tenuous be- 
cause of enemy patrol action and the jun- 
gled terrain. Just before dark both battalions 
dropped slightly back from their most ad- 
vanced positions in order to allow support- 
ing artillery to place fire on the still resisting 
enemy. 

Before noon Colonel Starr realized that 
Williams' and Lewis' battalions were prob- 
ably not going to break through the Japa- 
nese opposition on 3 August. Ordering them 
to continue their fights, he instructed Burns' 



command to bypass the engagement and 
strike overland on an azimuth of 195 de- 
grees (roughly, south-southwest). By dusk 
Burns' command had advanced unopposed 
900-1,000 yards and dug in for the night 
nearly abreast but 400 yards west of Lewis' 
battalion and out of contact with it. 
Fowler's unit bivouacked for the night at the 
line of departure, protecting the dropping 
ground, which was vital to continued ad- 
vance since Ted Force could by now be sup- 
plied only from the air. Casualties during 
the day had been incurred only by Williams' 
and Lewis' units and totaled 14 men killed 
and 14 wounded. 

During the night strong artillery concen- 
trations were placed in front of Williams 
and Lewis and at 0800 on 4 August both 
resumed the advance. The terrain encoun- 
tered on 4 August and subsequent days dur- 
ing the operations of the Ted Force east of 
the Driniumor proved next to impassable. 
Dense jungle undergrowth covered the 
ground ; the area was thick with heavy rain 
forest; low but knifelike ridges, separated 
from each other by deep gullies, were en- 
countered; and swampy spots were plenti- 
ful. To add to the difficulties, rain fell during 
the day — a downpour which turned much 
of the ground into a quagmire and flooded 
many dry stream beds. A few new, rough 
trails, recently cut by the Japanese, were 
found, but mud made them nearly useless as 
routes of advance. Low clouds coming in 
from the Torricelli Mountains to the south 
prevented ration and ammunition drops and 
increased communication difficulties. All 
battalions ran low on drinking water, for 
weather conditions prevented resupply of 
water purification tablets and the assault 
companies had neither time nor equipment 
to clean water by other means. Radio com- 
munication between battalions, from bat- 
talions to Ted Force headquarters, and 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



195 



from the latter to higher echelons was nearly 
nonexistent, for the heavy jungle and the 
damp weather cut down the efficiency of all 
radio equipment. 

First contact on 4 August was made by 
Williams' men, who surprised a platoon of 
Japanese in bivouac scarcely 100 yards south 
of the line of departure. Eight Japanese were 
killed and the rest fled. Williams' and Lewis' 
battalions then continued southward against 
only scattered rifle fire. The units covered 
about 1,000 yards in a southerly direction 
during the day and bivouacked on a clearly 
defined east-west trail. Fowler's battalion 
was not committed during the day, but re- 
mained in reserve at the dropping ground 
with the regimental command post. 

On the west, Burns' battalion had moved 
south west ward away from the rest of Ted 
Force. The unit encountered no opposition 
but found itself in such a maze of steep 
ridges and deep gullies that the pace of ad- 
vance was slowed to little more than 100 
yards per hour. After marching over ten 
hours and covering over 1,000 yards, the 
battalion set up night defenses on the same 
trail upon which Williams' and Lewis' com- 
mands had bivouacked about 1,300 yards 
to the east-northeast. Casualties for all parts 
of Ted Force had been light on the 4th. Only 
8 men had been wounded as opposed to 
about 50 Japanese killed and 3 captured. 18 

It had been hoped that the advance on 
the 4th would carry Ted Force south to the 
main Japanese supply route, but the trail 
reached by Burns', Lewis', and Williams' 
battalions was another route which had not 
been used by military traffic for some time. 
Possibly, it was a section of the native trail 
to Afua and, as such, purposely avoided by 

" What happened to these prisoners is unknown. 
There is no record that Ted Force either sent back 
or brought back any prisoners. 



the Japanese inasmuch as parts of it could be 
seen from the air. In any case, the track cut 
on the 4th lay about 1 ,200 yards north of the 
east-west trail which most of the Japanese 
forces moving to and from the Afua area 
had been using. Colonel Starr, realizing that 
the main Japanese supply route had not yet 
been severed, ordered his units to continue 
southward on the 5th, on which day the ad- 
vance was resumed about 0800 hours with 
Williams leading and Lewis' battalion about 
400 yards to the rear. Pushing south along 
now precipitous and mountainous banks of 
the upper Niumen, Williams' unit was op- 
posed by only scattered rifle fire until 1 100, 
when it was decisively halted by a strong 
Japanese force conducting a stubborn 
defense. 

TED Force and the With- 
drawing 18th Army 

Unknown to any part of the Persecu- 
tion Task Force, the 18th Army had been 
seriously considering withdrawal from the 
Driniumor since at least as early as 28 July. 
Supplies for 18th Army units in the Afua 
area were nearly exhausted, and General 
Adachi estimated that every last crumb of 
food would be gone by 3 August. No more 
supplies could be brought forward. More- 
over, the front-line units were suffering in- 
creasingly heavy casualties from combat, 
starvation, and disease; they had no more 
artillery support and could obtain none; 
weapons of all kinds were either being de- 
stroyed or rendered useless by lack of lubri- 
cation oil; and no reinforcements were 
available. 

Disturbed by the heavy casualties and 
plagued by insoluble logistic problems, Gen- 
eral Adachi, on the afternoon of 31 July, 
issued orders alerting his forward units to 



196 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



prepare for withdrawal, which apparently 
was to begin on 4 August. The assaults on 
South Force after 31 July were actually a 
part of General Adachi's withdrawal plan, 
which was designed to throw the Persecu- 
tion Covering Force off balance, to put 
forth one last "glorious" effort to overrun 
American positions (and perhaps secure 
supplies), and to cover the withdrawal. 

On 1 August General Adachi learned 
that American forces were active in the 
Yakamul area. It was erroneously reported 
to him that this was an amphibious opera- 
tion, a maneuver which the 18th Army com- 
mander had feared for some time (actually, 
the report referred to patrolling by the 2d 
Battalion, 124th Infantry, along the coast 
from the mouth of Niumen Creek ) . He 
therefore ordered the remaining elements of 
the 237th Infantry to extricate themselves 
from the operations in the Afua area and 
hurry back to Yakamul to reinforce service 
units in that vicinity. Events moved so rap- 
idly that the remnants of the 237th Infantry 
never got to Yakamul. Instead, the advance 
of Ted Force made it necessary for General 
Adachi to change his plans and accelerate 
a general withdrawal. 

Communications within forward units of 
the 18th Army had so broken down that it 
was not until 3 August that General Adachi 
learned of the Ted Force movement across 
the Driniumor, although the 1st Battalion, 
239th Infantry, had been in contact with 
Ted Force since 31 July. When General 
Adachi did hear of the American move- 
ment, he grossly underestimated the 
strength of Ted Force. Thinking that the 
American operation was being carried out 
by only 400 troops, General Adachi merely 
changed the orders of the 237th Infantry 
and instructed that regiment to hold the 



18th Army's crossing point on the upper 
Niumen Creek. 

On the same day, 3 August, General 
Adachi issued detailed plans for the with- 
drawal of all 18th Army units to the east 
side of the Driniumor, a withdrawal which 
was to begin on 4 or 5 August. The 66th 
Infantry, 51st Division, was to protect the 
20th and 41st Division units as they crossed 
the Driniumor. The continued advance of 
Ted Force on 3 August prompted General 
Adachi to change his plans and early on the 
4th he ordered the 20th Division to start re- 
treating at noon that day and the 41st Di- 
vision to break contact on the 5th. On the 
latter day, learning that Ted Force was ap- 
proaching the point at which the 18th 
Army's main line of communications 
crossed the upper reaches of Niumen Creek, 
General Adachi ordered the 8th Independ- 
ent Engineers to aid the remnants of the 
237th Infantry in holding the crossing point. 

It was this combined 237th Infantry — 
8th Engineers force that Williams' 3d Bat- 
talion, 124th Infantry, had encountered 
about 1 1 00 on 5 August. The composite 
Japanese unit was dug in along a 1 ,000-f oot- 
high ridge across Williams' line of advance 
and threatened to outflank the battalion by 
occupying other high ground nearby. De- 
spite artillery and mortar support, Williams' 
men were unable to advance. Colonel Starr 
ordered Lewis' unit to bypass the fight and 
continue south to locate and cut the Japa- 
nese main supply route. Fighting at Wil- 
liams' front continued through most of the 
afternoon, and Colonel Starr realized that 
the Japanese force could not be dislodged 
that day. Fowlers' battalion was brought up 
to the rear of Williams' and late in the aft- 
ernoon set up a new perimeter with the 
regimental command post. Before dark, W r il- 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



197 



liams' men withdrew slightly from their 
most forward positions so that artillery con- 
centrations could be placed along the front. 

Lewis' unit, which had moved off to the 
southeast to bypass Williams' fight, made 
little progress in very rough terrain and was 
cut off from the rest of Ted Force before it 
could swing westward. Burns' battalion, still 
far to the west of the other three, had en- 
countered little opposition during the day 
and had reached the main Japanese supply 
route late in the afternoon at a point about 
1,500 yards east of the Driniumor. The po- 
sition of Lewis' unit for the night is not cer- 
tain, but it was apparently near the same 
trail some place east of Williams' unit, which 
had done its fighting on or near one section 
of the main trail. 

Despite the fact that hopes of reaching 
the Driniumor had not been realized, the 
Ted Force advance on the 5 th had been suc- 
cessful within the limitations imposed by 
terrain, logistic problems, communications 
difficulties, and Japanese opposition. The 
main Japanese line of communications had 
been severed, although the section held by 
Burns' battalion showed signs of having been 
abandoned for some time. Over 100 Japa- 
nese had been killed at a cost to Ted Force 
of only 3 men killed and 14 wounded. Plans 
for the 6th were for Lewis' battalion to con- 
tinue its flanking movement while Fowler's 
unit, bypassing Williams' fight, was to en- 
velop the Japanese left. Williams' men were 
to continue their attack and Burns' battal- 
ion was to hold its position astride the trail. 

Action on the 6th started earlier than 
Ted Force expected. About 0300 approxi- 
mately 400 Japanese attacked Williams' per- 
imeter. This enemy force comprised ele- 
ments of the 41st Division, supported by men 
of the 26th Field Artillery of the 20th Divi- 
sion and some remnants of the 8th Inde- 



pendent Engineers. Attacking under cover 
of fire from machine guns, mortars, and 75- 
mm. mountain guns, the Japanese force was 
attempting to secure fords over the upper 
reaches of Niumen Creek and protect the 
withdrawal of other elements of 18th Army 
units from Afua. Though surprised, Wil- 
liams' men held back the initial onslaught. 
Reportedly, Japanese riflemen then climbed 
trees surrounding Williams' perimeter to 
pin down the American troops while other 
Japanese continued to attack on the ground. 

Fowler's unit, under orders to bypass Wil- 
liams' fight and move around the enemy left, 
started moving about 0800 hours but soon 
found the terrain made it impossible to 
avoid contact with the Japanese opposing 
Williams. The Japanese, having control of 
most commanding ground in the area, 
stopped Fowler's leading company. Action 
was not rapid. The terrain made all move- 
ments slow and laborious, and much time 
had to be taken to co-ordinate artillery sup- 
port fire properly. Under cover of artillery 
fire, another company of Fowler's battalion, 
creeping slowly through ravines and up an 
almost vertical cliff, worked around to un- 
occupied high ground on the Japanese left. 
The rest of the battalion was successfully dis- 
engaged to secure more commanding ter- 
rain in the same area. The Japanese, finding 
themselves outflanked and subjected to in- 
creasingly heavy artillery and mortar fire, 
began to withdraw southward in midafter- 
noon, relieving the pressure on Williams' 
front. 

Fowler's battalion, in enveloping the 
Japanese left, had moved north and then 
westward and the maneuver had carried 
the unit by dark to a point just north of the 
main trail about 750 yards east of Burns' 
battalion. Williams' men withdrew to reor- 
ganize, after disengaging from the enemy 



198 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




ARTILLERY SUPPORTING TED FORCE. C Battery, 129th Field Artillery 
Battalion, firing from the coast near Anamo. 



forces late in the afternoon ; at dark, having 
resumed the march westward, they secured 
high ground north of the trail. The ground 
covered during the day by Williams' bat- 
talion was little more than 500 yards west 
of the position it had occupied the previous 
night. The unit probably could have moved 
farther, but Colonel Starr halted it so as not 
to increase the distance from Lewis' battal- 
ion which was, in effect, lost. The unit had 
laboriously struggled over extremely rough 
and trackless ground during the day, fight- 
ing in the afternoon against a number of 
Japanese who had withdrawn from Wil- 



liams' front. For the night, Lewis' men set 
up a perimeter about 800 yards south-south- 
east of the scene of Williams' fighting. 

Burns' men, patrolling from their peri- 
meter astride the main trail, discovered a 
new trail about 800 yards to the south. The 
Japanese, having abandoned the western 
section of the trail on which Burns' battal- 
ion was bivouacked, had recently cut the 
new trail in order to escape from artillery 
and aerial bombardment, and had been us- 
ing this new trail since late July. Plans were 
made to send a strong force south to cut the 
new route, but Major Burns decided to have 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



199 



artillery interdict the Japanese who had 
been discovered by patrols on the new trail. 
Artillery fired throughout the night while 
Burns' battalion prepared to move in force 
south to the new trail the next morning. 

Ted Force action on the 6th probably 
accounted for some 350 Japanese killed or 
wounded, 1 * while the Ted Force battalions 
lost only 1 1 men killed and 2 wounded. 
Again, the advance had not carried to the 
Driniumor although General Gill, at Perse- 
cution Covering Force headquarters, had 
been pressing Colonel Starr to move on to 
the river. But Colonel Starr, not sure that all 
the principal Japanese escape routes had 
been cut, asked that he be allowed to con- 
tinue advancing southward, ultimately to 
approach Afua from the southeast. This 
plan was approved by General Gill. Plans 
were made to push on to the Driniumor on 
the 7th — plans which again could not be 
carried out. 

On the 7th movement began at 0800, 
and Burns' unit pushed rapidly south to- 
ward the new trail. Fowler's command, ini- 
tially moving west along the main trail, 
encountered some stiff opposition from Jap- 
anese who were attempting to escape from 
Burns' men. Fowler's battalion turned south 
and southwest from the main trail and, ad- 
vancing at a fairly good speed over very 
rough terrain, joined Burns' unit on the new 
trail about 1 130. By noon the two battalions 
had killed over 75 Japanese. Pushing gen- 
erally westward toward Afua and moving 
the bulk of the battalion to high ground 
south of the new trail, Burns' unit biv- 
ouacked for the night still about 1,100 yards 
east of the Driniumor, and Fowler's men 
were in the same general area. 

16 During the two days of fighting in the Williams- 
Fowler area on the upper Niumen, about 425 Jap- 
anese were killed, most of them by mortar and artil- 
lery fire. 



Williams' unit, with regimental head- 
quarters, pushed laboriously westward and 
by nightfall, having met little opposition, 
bivouacked on the main trail at a point al- 
most due north of Burns' and Fowler's new 
positions. Lewis' progress was again pain- 
fully slow over the incredibly rough terrain 
in which the unit found itself. There was 
some opposition from 4 1st Division rem- 
nants, and Lewis' movement was also slowed 
by the necessity for carrying along thirteen 
wounded men on litters. By dark the battal- 
ion had progressed scarcely 500 yards in a 
westerly direction and was still south of the 
main trail. Casualties in Ted Force from 
enemy action were light on the 7th: only 1 
man killed and 3 wounded. Faulty mortar 
ammunition, however, killed 8 more men 
and wounded 14 others, and early the next 
morning misplaced artillery fire from the 
120th Field Artillery Battalion killed 4 men 
and wounded 22 others in Burns' unit. 17 

On the 8th, Burns' and Fowler's battal- 
ions pushed on to the Driniumor, reaching 
the river at a point about 1,000 yards south 
of Afua. On the way, Burns' men discovered 
a Japanese hospital area. Most of the Japa- 
nese there indicated no willingness to surren- 
der but, on the contrary, began to commit 
suicide or fire at the advancing American 
troops, who summarily dispensed with 
those Japanese failing to commit suicide. 18 
Williams' unit reached the Driniumor at 
1700, but Lewis' battalion, which had 
reached the main trail during the morning, 
was again delayed by scattered Japanese op- 
position and the necessity of carrying 

11 According to Ltr, Becker to Starr, 13 Nov 50, 
Burns' battalion had not called for any artillery fire. 
The artillery shells were apparently sent out when 
the fires which Burns' men lit to cook breakfast were 
observed by the artillery observation towers on the 
coast. 

18 There is no record that any prisoners were taken 
in the hospital area. 



200 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



wounded men. The battalion remained 
more or less lost until 1100 on 10 August, 
when it reached the Driniumor at a point 
about 300 yards north of Afua. The same 
day all of Ted Force moved back to the Blue 
Beach area for a well-deserved rest. 

Results of TED Force Operations 

Ted Force reported that during its wide 
envelopment maneuver it killed about 1,800 
Japanese. Most of these casualties Ted 
Force inflicted upon the 18tk Army while 
the four American battalions were moving 
westward toward the Driniumor, and many 
included the sick, wounded, hungry, ex- 
hausted, and dispirited Japanese troops who 
were unable to keep up with the rest of the 
retreating 18th Army, Combat losses within 
Ted Force were about 50 men killed and 
80 wounded, of whom about 15 were killed 
and perhaps 40 wounded by misplaced 
American artillery fire or faulty mortar am- 
munition. 19 How many Ted Force men were 
rendered hors de combat by tropical fevers, 
psychoses, and other ailments is unknown, 
although it is known that all four battalions 
lost some men from such causes. 

The relatively low battle casualty rate ( lit- 
tle more than 2 percent from enemy action ) , 
while indicative of the ineffectiveness of Jap- 
anese opposition, is also a tribute to the lead- 
ership within Ted Force and to the team- 
work of all ranks under the worst possible 
climatic and terrain conditions. It is espe- 
cially noteworthy that the bulk of the per- 
sonnel engaged in the enveloping maneuver 
were members of the 1 24th Infantry, a unit 
on its hrst combat mission, and that the 2d 
Battalion, 169th Infantry, had been exten- 
sively reorganized and had received many 

19 Records concerning Ted Force casualties are 
very incomplete and contradictory. 



inexperienced replacements since its last ac- 
tion against the Japanese. 

To summarize, the objectives of the Ted 
Force maneuver had been to cut the Japa- 
nese lines of communication to the east in 
order to render the enemy's positions around 
Afua untenable, and, if necessary, to fall 
upon the 18th Army's Afua forces from the 
flanks and rear. While the envelopment was 
not as successful in accomplishing these mis- 
sions as had been anticipated, or as it was 
thought to be at the time of its completion, 
the maneuver did force the 18 th Army to 
accelerate its already planned withdrawal 
from the Driniumor. 

The End of the Aitape Operation 

While Ted Force had been moving to- 
ward the Driniumor, South Force had been 
mopping up in the Afua area. The banzai 
attacks against the front of the 1st Squad- 
ron, 1 1 2th Cavalry, on the morning of 4 
August had been undertaken by the 18th 
Army to cover the withdrawal east of the 
Driniumor and marked the last co-ordi- 
nated efforts made by the Japanese in the 
Driniumor area. General Cunningham 
could now r execute his plans to clear the 
enemy remnants from the Afua region. 

A combined attack by Ted Force and 
South Force had originally been scheduled 
for 4 August, but had been postponed be- 
cause Ted Force could not reach the Driniu- 
mor by that day. 20 On 5 August it was de- 
cided that South Force would attack south 



20 This section is based on : 11 2th Gav Opns Rpt 
Aitape, pp. 14-15; 112th Cav Opns and Int Diary 
Aitape; 2d Sq 112th Cav Jnl, 29 Jun-11 Aug 44; 
PCF G-3 Jnls, 31 Jul-5 Aug, 5-9 Aug, and 9-15 
Aug 44; 1st Bn 169th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2- 
3; 3d Bn 128th Inf Jnl, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44; 127th 
Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, Sec. II, pp. 14-15; 127th Inf 
Jnl file, 1-25 Aug 44; 2d Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 27 Jun- 
25 Aug 44. 




NATIVE LITTER BEARERS evacuate a casualty across the Driniumor River near 
Afua Village, 



202 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the next day, whether or not Ted Force 
reached Afua in time to participate. It was 
in preparation for this attack that the 1st 
Battalion, 1 69th Infantry, had been sent to 
the Driniumor from Palauru, and at the 
same time General Gill released the 3d Bat- 
talion, 128th Infantry, to General Cunning- 
ham for participation in the 6 August action. 

The South Force commander ordered 
three of the infantry battalions available to 
him to clear the ground south and west of 
his command post area to the Afua-Palauru 
trail. One of the battalions was to move 
south along the west bank of the Driniumor, 
clear Afua, and then move on to a Japanese 
fording point about 2,000 yards upstream 
from Afua. Simultaneously, on the east 
bank, a Composite Squadron, comprising 
two cavalry troops and an infantry com- 
pany, was to advance south to the ford. 
Tactical control over all these attack opera- 
tions was vested in Colonel Howe, the com- 
mander of the 127th Infantry. 

The Composite Squadron crossed the 
Driniumor at 0800 on the 6th and pushed 
south through heavy but disorganized Japa- 
nese rifle fire. It halted for the night about 
500 yards north of the ford and reported 
that many Japanese were crossing the ford 
to the east. West of the river, one infantry 
battalion reached the Afua— Palauru trail 
late in the afternoon at a point about 300 
yards west of Afua, having encountered only 
scattered resistance. Another battalion 
pushed units south along the west bank to 
a point opposite the Composite Squadron, 
and the third continued operations it had 
begun on the 5 th of August to clear the 
jungled, broken terrain west of South 
Force's command post. 

Patrolling in the same areas continued 
for the next two days, as South Force waited 
for Ted Force to reach the Driniumor. 



South Force patrols reported ever decreas- 
ing opposition and found increasing evi- 
dence that the Japanese were in full flight 
to the east. On the- evening of 9 August 
General Gill reported to General Hall that 
no more resistance was to be expected along 
the Driniumor pr in the Afua area. The 
Japanese, said General Gill, had retreated 
and the Persecution Covering Force 
could be relieved. The Battle of the Driniu- 
mor was over. 

On 10 and 11 August most of South 
Force and all of Ted Force returned to Blue 
Beach and on the latter day the 103d Infan- 
try, 43d Division, began to relieve all units 
of the Persecution Covering Force still on 
the river. The relief of the 127th Infantry 
was completed on the 13th, and the 128th 
Infantry, which was still holding the old 
North Force positions, returned to Blue 
Beach three days later. The Persecution 
Covering Force ceased to exist as a separate 
unit on the 15th and its missions were as- 
sumed by a new organization which, desig- 
nated the Tadji Defense Perimeter and 
Covering Force, was commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Leonard F. Wing, the commanding 
general of the 43d Infantry Division. 21 

From 16 to 25 August principal combat 
missions in the Aitape area were carried out 
by the three regiments of the 43d Division. 
The 169th Infantry operated on the west 
flank, the 172d Infantry south of the Tadji 
strips and along the Nigia, and the 103d 

21 Actually, during the period 25 July to 25 Au- 
gust, there were many changes in the command 
structure of the Persecution Task Force, none of 
which materially affected operations. These changes 
are to be found in orders and memos in the PTF G-3 
Jnls, 21-26 Jul, 7-16 Aug, and 16-25 Aug 44; PCF 
G-3 Jnl, 5-9 Aug 44. General Wing's command 
comprised the 43d Division and the 112th Cavalry 
RCT. General Gill became the commander of the 
Persecution Task Force Reserve, which included 
the 32d Division and the 124th RCT. 



13— The Persecution Task Force: 11 August-25 August 1944 



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HEADQUARTERS PERSECUlrQN IA$K FCWCE 



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204 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Infantry along the Driniumor. The latter 
regiment sent patrols east from the Drini- 
umor along the coast as far as Marubian, 
and up the Drindaria River to Charov and 
Jalup, where no American troops had been 
since early June. As far east as the Drindaria 
there was no sign of organized Japanese re- 
sistance, and all Japanese in the area seemed 
to be withdrawing in confusion to the east. 
At the mouth of the Dandriwad River, how- 
ever, the Japanese maintained organized de- 
laying positions, through which American 
patrols did not attempt to push. 22 

On 25 August General Krueger, Alamo 
Force commander, convinced that the 18th 
Army no longer constituted any threat to the 
Aitape perimeter or the Tadji airstrips, de- 
clared the Aitape operation over. 23 

Conclusions 

The most obvious result of the Aitape 
operation was that two and one-third rein- 
forced divisions of the 18th Army had been 



S! 43d Inf Div Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 2 ; Tadji De- 
fense Perimeter and Covering Force, G— 3 Per Rpts 
1-10, 16-25 Aug 44. One noteworthy action was 
undertaken by the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, 
which on 1 1 August returned to Yakamul whence 
it had been driven by Japanese forces early in June. 
The battalion recovered the bodies of 6 of the 9 dead 
it had left behind in June. The unit was accom- 
panied by a platoon of Company B, 44th Tank Bat- 
talion. The action is described in PTF Opns Rpt 
Aitape, 28 Jun-25 Aug 44, p. 17. 

!S Alamo Force Opns Rpt Aitape— Hollandia, p. 
35. General Krueger, "for historical purposes," set 
a terminal date on each of the operations along the 
New Guinea coast. This meant that unit after ac- 
tion reports as required by Army regulations were to 
be closed as of that date. Often these dates coincided 
with administrative changes in the area concerned, 
as in the case of Hollandia when the termination 
date also marked transfer of responsibility in the 
area from Headquarters, Reckless Task Force, 
to Headquarters, Base G, a Services of Supply 
installation. 



shattered in vain attempts to recapture the 
Aitape area and delay the Allied drive to- 
ward the Philippines — neither of which ob- 
jectives had been achieved. Instead, the 
18th Army had suffered a decisive and costly 
defeat ; it could no longer be a serious threat 
to Allied forces anywhere in New Guinea. 

The Aitape operation had served a num- 
ber of other purposes for the Allies. First, 
the Tadji airstrips had provided a base from 
which planes could have flown support mis- 
sions for ground operations at Hollandia, 
had such support proved necessary. Second, 
the Persecution Task Force's victory over 
the 18th Army prevented the latter unit 
from threatening more important Allied po- 
sitions at Hollandia. At Aitape, one regi- 
mental combat team of the 31st Infantry 
Division received its first combat experience, 
and the whole or parts of three other divi- 
sions and all of another regimental combat 
team had further experience in combat 
which helped prepare those units for subse- 
quent operations in the drive toward the 
Philippines or in the latter islands them- 
selves. Finally, the Aitape area served as a 
staging base for troops engaged in three later 
operations along the New Guinea coast and 
in the Philippines. 

Securing the Aitape area and defeating 
the 18th Army had cost Allied forces to 25 
August approximately 440 men killed, 
2,550 wounded, and 10 missing. 24 Accord- 
ing to American counts, Japanese losses in 
the Aitape area from 22 April to 25 August 
were 8,821 killed and 98 captured, of whom 
2,669 were killed and 34 taken prisoner dur- 

24 The casualty records of all major units involved 
in the Aitape operation are incomplete and contra- 
dictory. The figures given above are close to those of 
Alamo Force and were derived from data in the 
records of all major units engaged in the Aitape 
area. 



BATTLE OF THE DRINIUMOR: THE 18TH ARMY RETREATS 



205 



ing the period 2-9 August. 25 According to 
Japanese sources, the American figures are 
a little conservative, for the Japanese esti- 
mated that the 18th Army lost about 9,000 
men of the 20,000 employed in the forward 
area just for the period 1 June through 5 
August. As the 1 8th Army units withdrew, 
effective combat strength of the 20th Divi- 
sion's three infantry regiments was down to 
an average of less than 100 men; the regi- 
ments of the 41st Division averaged about 
250 men; and the 66th Infantry, 51st Divi- 
sion, was reduced to 150 effectives. All Jap- 
anese infantry units lost most of their bat- 
talion, company, and platoon commanders, 
and the bulk of their crew-served weapons. 
All the artillery brought to the Aitape area 
was lost, and rations and supplies of all 
other types were completely exhausted in 
the forward area. 26 The sacrifices were in 
vain. 

Although a major battle — essentially de- 
fensive in character — had developed at 
Aitape, this action proved but incidental to 
the progress of the Southwest Pacific Area's 
drive toward the Philippines. Even while 
the battle along the Driniumor was being 
fought, other forces under General Mac Ar- 
thur's command had been moving north- 
westward up the coast of New Guinea. This 
drive had progressed as rapidly as the as- 

25 Alamo Force Opns Rpt Aitape-Hollandia, p. 
35; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 871, 10 Aug 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 10 Aug 44. 

28 18th Army Opns, III, 156-59- 



sembly of supplies and the availability of 
ground forces, air support, amphibious craft, 
warships, and cargo ships would permit. On 
1 7 May, long before anyone at Aitape knew 
that the 18th Army was going to attack or 
that a battle was going to be fought along 
the Driniumor River, Allied forces had 
landed in the Wakde— Sarmi area of Dutch 
New Guinea, about 275 miles northwest of 
Aitape. 27 



" American forces continued active patrolling in 
the Aitape area for some time, the 43d Division be- 
ing the last relieved. The division staged at Aitape 
for operations in Luzon. Late in October 1944, Aus- 
tralian units started taking over at Aitape, the first 
one to arrive being the 2/6th Cavalry (Commando) 
Regiment. Later, the 6th Australian Division ar- 
rived, and on 27 November the command in the 
area passed from General Wing to Maj. Gen. J. E. 
S. Stevens (AIF), the Australian division com- 
mander. In mid— December the Australians began a 
slow but steady drive toward Wewak, which fell on 
10 May 1945 after stubborn resistance. Japanese 
remnants were still holding out in mountains south 
of Wewak on V-J Day. General Adachi delayed giv- 
ing himself up for some days, but finally came in on 
13 September 1945 to surrender the few thousand 
men of the 18th Army still alive. Australian losses 
during this drive were 451 men killed, 1,163 wound- 
ed, and 3 missing. Japanese losses were 7,200 killed 
or found dead and 269 prisoners. General Adachi 
was taken by the Australians to Rabaul where he was 
tried for war crimes by an Australian military tribu- 
nal and, on 27 April 1947, sentenced to life im- 
prisonment. He committed suicide in prison at 
Rabaul during the night of 8-9 September 1947. 
This info is from: 6th Austr Div, Rpt on Opns, 
Aitape-Wewak Campaign, 26 Oct 44-13 Sep 45, 
Part 1, Rec of Events, pars. 7—166, copy in OCMH 
files; Ltr, Mr. John Balfour, Australian War His- 
torian's Office, to author, 22 Dec 48, no sub, copy in 
OCMH files; tel conv with Lt Col Peter S. Teesdale- 
Smith, Australian Military Mission, Washington, 
D. C, 22 Jun 50. 



CHAPTER IX 



The Seizure of Wakde Island 



The seizure of the HoIIandia and Aitape 
areas had consummated one step in the 
Southwest Pacific's strategic plan for the ap- 
proach to the Philippines — advancing the 
land-based bomber and fighter line by the 
seizure of air-base sites along the north coast 
of New Guinea. Long before Allied troops 
had set foot ashore at HoIIandia and Aitape, 
General MacArthur's planners had been 
looking toward the Geelvink Bay region of 
western Dutch New Guinea as the next air- 
base site objective after HoIIandia. From 
airfields constructed on islands in Geelvink 
Bay, operations still farther to the northwest 
could be supported. 1 

The Sarmi-Biak Plan 
The Strategic Background 

The 200-mile-deep indentation that Geel- 
vink Bay makes into the land mass of New 
Guinea scoops out the neck of the bird-like 
figure of that island. Cape D'Urville, lying 
over 200 miles northwest of HoIIandia, is the 
bird's shoulder and marks the eastern limit 
of Geelvink Bay. From Cape D'Urville the 
distance westward across the bay to Manok- 
wari on the Vogelkop Peninsula (the bird's 
head) is about 250 miles. Across the north- 
ern entrance to Geelvink Bay lie many small 



islands and islets. Among the Schouten 
Group are Biak, Soepiori, Owi, and Mios 
Woendi; Japen, Mios Noem, and Noemfoor 
lie south and west of the Schoutens. Many 
of the bay islands are large enough to pro- 
vide airdrome sites, some of which had been 
developed by the Japanese. Allied attention 
was focused on Biak. The terrain on the 
southeastern shore of that island is well 
suited for airfields, and the Japanese had 
begun airdrome construction there late in 
1943. 

Biak Island is located about 325 miles 
northwest of HoIIandia. On the New 
Guinea mainland approximately 180 miles 
southeast of Biak and 145 miles northwest 
of HoIIandia lies the town of Sarmi. Prior to 
World War II, Sarmi was the seat of the 
local Netherlands East Indies government 
and a small commercial center. In the clos- 
ing months of 1943, the Japanese began to 
develop in the Sarmi area supply, troop, 
and air bases of some importance, for the 
region was to be a major defensive installa- 
tion on Japan's withdrawing strategic main 
line of resistance. Six miles east of Sarmi 
the enemy constructed Sawar Dro me, which 



1 Reno I, 25 Feb 43; Reno II, 3 Aug 43; Reno 
III, 20 Oct 43. 



was operational by 1 April 1944. {Map 9) 
Three miles still farther east, on the shores 
of Maffin Bay, the Japanese hastily began 
constructing another airstrip early in 1944. 
About twenty miles east of Sarmi and ap- 
proximately two miles offshore lie the 
Wakde Islands, Insoemoar and Insoemanai. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



207 



Liki 1. \ 








4.5 miles \ 




WAKDE -SARMI 


AREA 






Coastal truck 








— Airfield 








Airfield UNDER 


CONSTRUCTION 






3 


9 






MILES 






H Damon 

MAP 9 



On the former, designated throughout the 
operation as Wakde Island, the Japanese 
had completed an excellent airfield by June 
1943. 2 

Although General MacArthur's planners 
had given up thoughts of seizing Wakde 
Island as an adjunct to the Hollandia opera- 
tion, they did not drop the Wakde-Sarmi 
area from consideration. First, the area was 

5 Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, pp. 5-7 ; 
AGS SWPA Terrain Handbook 26, Sarmi, 20 Apr 
44, copy in OCMH files. 



apparently capable of development into a 
major air base for the support of subsequent 
operations. Second, as more information 
from various intelligence sources became 
available at General Headquarters concern- 
ing Japanese airdrome development, troop 
dispositions, and supply concentrations at 
Wakde-Sarmi, the area began to acquire a 
threatening aspect. It was a base from which 
the enemy could not only endanger the suc- 
cess of the Hollandia operation, but also 
imperil Allied progress into the Geelvink 



208 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Bay area. Indeed, the Allied Air Forces con- 
sidered that an early seizure of the Wakde- 
Sarmi region after the capture of Hollandia 
was a prerequisite to continuing the drive 
toward the Philippines. 3 

Finally, when in March 1944 the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff had instructed General 
MacArthur to provide air support for oper- 
ations in the Central Pacific Area, 4 occupa- 
tion of both the Wakde— Sarmi area and 
Biak Island assumed importance in inter- 
theater strategy. From air bases in north- 
west New Guinea the Allied Air Forces 
could provide support for the Central Pa- 
cific's Mariana and Palau operations by 
helping to neutralize enemy bases in the 
western Carolines and keeping under sur- 
veillance enemy shipping and fleet units in 
the waters north and northwest of the Vogel- 
kop Peninsula. In addition, an early advance 
by Southwest Pacific forces to the Wakde 
Sarmi-Biak region would keep Japanese at- 
tention diverted from impending operations 
in Admiral Nimitz' area of responsibility / 

Prior to May 1944 the only good heavy 
bomber bases in the Southwest Pacific's for- 
ward area were on the Admiralty Islands 
and at Nadzab in eastern New Guinea. Both 
these bases were too far south or east to per- 
mit execution of an effective bombing and 
reconnaissance program to support either 



3 Ltr, AAF SWPA to GHQ SWPA, 12 Apr 44, 
sub: Wakde-Sarmi Opns, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Wakde-Biak, f2-22 Apr 44. As they had for the 
Hollandia-Aitape operations, the staff sections of 
Headquarters, Alamo Force, maintained separate 
journals for operations at Wakde and Biak. For part 
of the time, the Alamo Force headquarters was di- 
vided into two echelons, advanced and rear, both of 
which maintained independent journals for the 
Wakde-Biak operations. 

1 Rads, JCS to C INC SWPA and CINCPOA, 5171 
and 989, 12 Mar 44, CM-OUT 5137. 

5 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, AAF SWPA, et al, 
CX-12504, 14 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 14-18 May 44. 



the Central Pacific's advances or the South- 
west Pacific's drive to the Philippines. It had 
been expected that the newly won Hollandia 
fields would furnish excellent bomber bases 
farther west and north, but the terrain and 
weather at Hollandia made it impossible to 
provide airfields suitable for extensive em- 
ployment by heavy bombers without a great 
deal more engineering work than had been 
anticipated. The necessary air support mis- 
sions therefore became contingent upon 
rapid development of heavy bomber fields 
in the Wakde-Sarmi-Biak region. 1 "' 

The First Wakde-Sarmi— Biak Plan. 

Even before plans for Hollandia-Aitape 
had been completed, General MacArthur 
had warned principal subordinate head- 
quarters in the Southwest Pacific Area that 
the operation might soon be extended to in- 
clude the seizure of the Wakde-Sarmi area. 
Since Admiral Nimitz had not then made 
any specific requests for Southwest Pacific 
air support of his operations, the objectives 
of the Wakde-Sarmi undertaking at first 
had principally local applications. Japanese 
forces at Sarmi were to be prevented from 
interfering with construction at Hollandia, 
and bases were to be developed in the Sarmi 
area to support subsequent Southwest Pa- 
cific operations to the northwest. 7 

General MacArthur's G-2 Section ex- 
pected that the Allied seizure of Hollandia 
and Aitape would stir the Japanese into ef- 
forts to reinforce western New Guinea. It 
was estimated that one enemy division was 



"USSBS, Naval Analysis Div, The Campaigns of 
the Pacific War (Washington, 1946), pp. 180-210; 
Rad, GHQ SWPA to CINCPOA, CX-12551, 15 
May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 15 May 44. 

' Ltr, GHQ SWPA to Alamo Force, ANF SWPA, 
et al., 10 Apr 44, sub: Stickatnought Operation, 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 12-22 Apr 44. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



209 



spread between Sarmi and Biak, and it was 
' believed that two more divisions were sched- 
uled for early movement to New Guinea. 
jAllowed freedom of movement, such enemy 
reinforcements could become a strong threat 
to the success of advances westward beyond 
Hollandia. It therefore seemed of utmost 
jjrgency that the Wakde-jSarmi area be 
^eized and cleared of enemy forces as soon 
as possible. 

' The G— 2 Section estimated that about 
6,500 Japanese troops were stationed at 
Wakde-Sarmi. Of these, some 4,000 were 
considered combat elements of the 36th Di- 
vision, probably including the entire 224th 
Infantry and possibly a battalion of the 223d 
Infantry. The 222 d Infantry of the same 
division was thought to be on Biak Island. 
Within 350 miles west of Sarmi (considered 
easy reinforcing distance ) , there were esti- 
mated to be approximately 14,000 enemy 
troops, of whom 7,000 were believed mem- 
bers of combat units. These forces were 
thought to be concentrated at Manokwari, 
on Biak, and on other islands in Geelvink 
Bay. The exact dispositions of the Japanese 
at Wakde-Sarmi could not be foretold, but 
it was considered probable that most were 
concentrated at Sarmi and around the three 
airfields in the vicinity. 8 

Basing his decision on the estimated Japa- 
nese strength in the Wakde-Sarmi area and 
on the possibility that the enemy might re- 
inforce the area before the Allies could land 
there, General MacArthur decided that a 
full infantry division should be sent against 

8 GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Wakde- 
Sarmi Area, 9 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 8 Apr 44; 
GHQ SWPA, G-2 Monthly Sum of Enemy Disposi- 
tions, 30 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 30 Apr 44; Int 
Annex to Alamo Force FO 16, 30 Apr 44, filed with 
other materials atchd to Alamo Force Opns Rpt 
Wakde-Biak. 



Wakde-Sarmi. One regimental combat 
team was to land near the town of Sarmi, 
another on the mainland opposite Wakde 
Island, and the third was to be in reserve. 
The unit landing near Wakde was to seize 
that island by a shore-to-shore maneuver 
after securing the initial mainland beach- 
head, j 

General Krueger, who was to direct the 
operation, planned to employ either the 
6th or 31st Infantry Division. Both of these 
units had recently arrived in the theater, and 
neither had combat experience. This plan 
was opposed by General MacArthur, who 
considered it necessary to withdraw the 24th, 
the 32d, or the 41st Division from its com- 
mitment to Hollandia— Aitape. The theater 
commander felt that it would be impossible 
to stage and supply the Wakde-Sarmi oper- 
ation from rear areas, since all available 
large amphibious and cargo ships were 
needed to support the Hollandia-Aitape 
operation and build up the air and supply 
base at Hollandia. Thus, an early advance 
to Wakde-Sarmi was contingent upon com- 
bat developments at Hollandia and Aitape. 
If none of the divisions committed to the 
latter operations could be relieved, Wakde- 
Sarmi might have to be postponed until at 
least mid-June. 

With this information at hand General 
Krueger decided to assign the 3 2d Division 
to Wakde-Sarmi. One regimental combat 
team of the division was scheduled for early 
arrival at Aitape and the remainder of the 
unit was at Saidor, in eastern New Guinea. 
However, the unexpected weakness of Japa- 
nese opposition at Hollandia, the shortage 
of shipping, and the lack of adequate stag- 
ing facilities at Saidor combined to prompt 
a change. The 41st Division, with one regi- 
mental combat team at Aitape and the re- 



210 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



maining units at Hollandia, was substituted 
for the 32d. 9 

Setting D Day for Wakde-Sarmi de- 
pended not only on combat developments at 
Hollandia and Aitape but also upon the 
availability of naval and air support. Naval 
escort vessels and sufficient amphibious craft 
were expected to be on hand by 30 April. 
Air support was not so easily obtained. The 
carriers which were to support Hollandia- 
Aitape had to leave the Southwest Pacific 
within a very few days after that invasion. 
Wakde-Sarmi was too far from eastern New 
Guinea air bases to permit proper land- 
based air support. For these two reasons, the 
advance to Wakde-Sarmi had to await es- 
tablishment of land-based air units on the 
Hollandia fields. It was expected that these 
fields would be operational by 1 2 May. To 
allow for unforeseen circumstances, the tar- 
get date for Wakde-Sarmi was set for three 
days later, 15 May. This date was set by 
General Mac Arthur in operations instruc- 
tions published on 27 April. 1 * The target 
date and selection of forces for Biak were 
left for later determination, but a move to 
Biak early in June was contemplated. 

The Plan is Changed 

By the first week in May preparations for 
Wakde-Sarmi were rapidly approaching 
completion. The 41st Division's three com- 
bat teams had been relieved at Hollandia 



5 Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-2393, 14 Apr 
44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 14 Apr 44 ; Rads, GHQ SWPA 
to Alamo, C-1067I, 14 Apr 44, and Alamo to CTF 
76, WF-2584, 15 Apr 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Wakde-Biak, 12-22 Apr 44; Alamo Force Opns 
Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 8. 

10 GHQ SWPA, Stf Study, Occupation of Wakde- 
Sarmi Area, n. d., atchd to GHQ SWPA ltr to 
Alamo et al, 10 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA, OI 51, 27 
Apr 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 22-30 Apr 
44. 



and Aitape and were busily loading supplies. 
Naval and amphibious organization had 
been settled, and shipping and supplies were 
being gathered at the two staging areas. The 
Allied Air Forces had begun preassault 
bombardments of the targets, and all units 
participating in the operation were putting 
finishing touches on their tactical plans. On 
4 May, however, Admiral Barbey, who was 
responsible for the co-ordination of naval 
planning, started a chain of events which 
precipitated a broad change in the Wakde- 
Sarmi plan. 

Admiral Barbey proposed that D Day be 
postponed until 21 May and gave two rea- 
sons for the postponement. First, tides would 
be higher in the Wakde area on the 2 1st than 
on the 15th. Second, postponement would 
allow orderly and complete preparations to 
be made. Congestion was severe at the 
Hollandia beaches, where the bulk of the 
41st Division was to stage. Lack of lighter- 
age and beach space, combined with an in- 
adequate road net, hampered unloading of 
equipment, supplies, and troops which were 
pouring into the Hollandia area. The ar- 
rival of such supplies and units, some of 
which had to be reloaded for Wakde-Sarmi, 
seriously interfered with mounting the 41st 
Division. 11 

General Krueger, responsible for co-ordi- 
nating all planning for the Wakde-Sarmi 
operation, immediately called a conference 
of representatives of Alamo Force, Allied 
Air Forces, and Allied Naval Forces to dis- 
cuss Admiral Barbey 's proposal. The con- 
ferees, meeting on 6 May, decided that the 
operation could be started no earlier than 
16 May (a day later than the date already 
set ) but that unless important strategic con- 

11 Rad, CTF 76 to CG Alamo and Com7thFlt, 4 
May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 1-7 May 
44 ; Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 9. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



211 



siderations dictated otherwise, 21 May 
would be much preferable. Such a delay 
would considerably ease the congestion at 
Hollandia and give the Allied Air Forces 
time for many more strikes against the tar- 
get area. General Krueger immediately in- 
formed General MacArthur of the recom- 
mendations made at the conference. 12 

General MacArthur, who approved the 
proposed delay, investigated the problem 
more fully and on 6 May recommended that 
the entire concept of the Wakde-Sarmi op- 
eration be recast. Interpretation of new 
aerial photographs of the coastal area from 
Sarmi eastward to Wakde indicated that 
ground conditions on the mainland in that 
region were not suited to construction of 
airdromes adequate for heavy bomber op- 
erations. General MacArthur therefore de- 
cided that the Sarmi portion of the opera- 
tion should be canceled. Wakde Island 
would be seized as planned and aircraft 
would be sent there as soon as possible. With- 
in eight or ten days after the capture of 
Wakde, or as soon as the airfield there was 
repaired, Allied forces would advance to 
Biak, where more suitable airdrome sites 
were known to exist. The move to Biak 
would be covered by Wakde-based fighters 
and bombers. 13 

To arrange the details under this revised 
concept, a new planning conference was 
held at Alamo Force headquarters on 9 
May. Conferees included General Mac- 
Arthur's chief of staff; the commanders of 
Alamo Force, Allied Air Forces, and Allied 
Naval Forces; and representatives of the 

15 Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-843, 6 May 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 1-7 May 44. 

13 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, AAF SWPA, et 
at, GX-12253, 6 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Wakde-Biak, 1-7 May 44. 



Advanced Echelon, Fifth Air Force, and the 
VII Amphibious Force. After considerable 
discussion the conferees decided that the 
proposed Wakde-Biak operation could be 
carried out. The forces originally scheduled 
to take Wakde-Sarmi were believed suffi- 
cient. One regimental combat team was 
considered strong enough for the Wakde 
phase and it was expected that the rest of 
the 41st Division could seize the airdrome 
areas on Biak. 

In order to assure that the Wakde field 
would be ready to base aircraft supporting 
the Biak operation, it was determined that 
an interval of ten days would be necessary 
between the two phases of the new opera- 
tion. Such an interval was also dictated by 
logistic problems, since many of the assault 
ships used for Wakde would also be needed 
in the Biak phase, and a ten-day interval 
would be necessary for the turnaround and 
reloading of these vessels. Finally, a number 
of engineer and air force organizations were 
scheduled to arrive at Hollandia on 12 May, 
either for employment there or to be staged 
for Wakde-Sarmi. The shipping bringing 
these units to Hollandia was needed to sup- 
port the Wakde phase of the new operation, 
which could not begin until the vessels were 
reloaded. This reloading could not be ac- 
complished quickly, for beach congestion at 
Hollandia remained a major problem. It 
was therefore proposed that the Wakde 
landings be postponed still another day. On 
the other hand, the strategic urgency of pro- 
viding the Central Pacific with land-based 
air support for the invasion of the Marianas 
was by now becoming evident and a delay in 
the target date for Biak might threaten the 
success of Admiral Nimitz's undertakings. 
After consideration of all these problems, 
the conferees finally decided that D Day for 



212 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Wakde should be set for 1 7 May and Z Day 
for Biak for 27 May. 14 

The Wakde Plan 

On 10 May General MacArthur ap- 
proved the proposed dates for the new 
Wakde-Biak operation. 15 All units con- 
cerned immediately began revising their 
Wakde-Sarmi plans — plans which proved 
remarkably flexible. New loading and stag- 
ing schedules had to be drawn up, and some 
changes in organization, command, and 
troop assignments were found necessary. 
Despite the fact that some confusion inevi- 
tably resulted from the sudden change in 
the original concept of operations, all major 
headquarters were able to perfect new plans 
within a few days. 

The Amphibious Plan 

Under the revised concept the ground 
forces moving into the Wakde-Sarmi area 
were to limit operations to the occupation 
and defense of Wakde Island and the adja- 
cent mainland. The ground mission was pri- 
marily defensive in nature — to prevent 
Japanese interference with construction ac- 
tivities on Wakde and air operations from it. 
There was one additional task. The Allied 
Air Forces desired that radar warning sta- 
tions be established in the Wakde area. For 
this purpose, Liki and Niroemoar Islands, 



" Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo et al, CX-12253, 
6 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 1-7 
May 44; Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 
10 ; Rad, Alamo to CTF 76, WF-1405, 9 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44; CTF 
77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; Ltr, Gen Kenney [USAF], 
to Gen Ward, 4 Nov 50, no sub, copy in OCMH files. 

1S GHQ SWPA OI 51/1, 10 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44. 



about fifteen miles off Sarmi, were to tye 
seized. 

The nucleus of the force moving to 
Wakde was the 163d Regimental Combat 
Team of the 41st Division. For the operation 
the reinforced combat team was designated 
the Tornado Task Force, to be commanded 
by Brig. Gen. Jens A. Doe who had directed 
the operations of the 163d at Aitape. The 
Tornado Task Force was to start landing 
on the mainland opposite Wakde Island at 
0715 on 17 May. The seizure of Wakde 
Island was to be undertaken on 18 May, 
and the capture of Liki and Niroemoar on 
the 19th. H 

Planners devoted much time to the selec- 
tion of a landing beach for the Tornado 
Task Force. Though the principal objective 
of the task force was Wakde, that island was 
too small and its beaches were too limited to 
permit the landing of a reinforced regimen- 
tal combat team. Furthermore, a landing 
on Wakde might be subjected to fire from 
hidden enemy artillery on the mainland. 
Landing the task force on the mainland 
would largely eliminate any danger of beach 
congestion, and at the same time the Japa- 
nese would be denied positions from which 
they could shell Allied forces on Wakde. 
Conversely, the Tornado Task Force could 
secure positions on the mainland from 
which its own artillery could hit Japanese 
defenses on Wakde, 

It was decided that a landing at Toem, on 
the mainland directly opposite Wakde, 
would not be sensible. There the landing 
craft and cargo ships would be subjected to 
even small-caliber fire from Wakde. In such 



18 Alamo Force FO 17, 12 May 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44; TTF FO 1, 12 Ma» 
44, atchd to TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 
May 44. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



213 



restricted waters the enemy could place en- 
filade fire on the ships, but in more open wa- 
ters to the west naval fire support ships and 
amphibious vessels would have freedom of 
movement and could maneuver to neutral- 
ize both Wakde and the Toem area while 
the Tornado Task Force moved ashore and 
set up its artillery. After consideration of all 
these factors, it was finally decided that the 
initial beachhead would be at Arare, a na- 
tive settlement on the coast about three miles 
west of Toem and four and one-half miles 
southwest of Wakde Island. 17 

The 163d Infantry, in column of battal- 
ions, the 3d Battalion leading, was to initiate 
the assault at Arare. LGVP's, furnished by 
Engineer Special Brigades and manned by 
Company B, 542 d Engineer Boat and Shore 
Regiment, were to take ashore the first four 
waves, which were to land at five-minute 
intervals beginning at H Hour. The four 
waves were to contain 8 LCVP's each, the 
fifth wave 4 LCM's, and the next two waves 
6 LCI's each. LST's were to move in to the 
beach beginning at H plus 60 minutes. 18 

The 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, was to 
take up positions on the right (west) flank 
of the Arare beachhead. The 1st and 2d 
Battalions, following the 3d ashore, were to 
move east along the coast from Arare, 6,000 
yards to Tementoe Creek and prevent Japa- 
nese interference from the east. One rifle 
company of the 3d Battalion was to move 
west from Arare to the Tor River, another 
6,000 yards distant. 



"Alamo Force FO 16, 30 Apr 44; Alamo Force 
Opns Rpt Wakde— Biak, p. 8. The name Arare is also 
spelled Arare, Arareh, and Arrara. 

" CTG 77.2 [Eastern Attack Group] Attack Order 
1-44 (Rev), 13 May 44, and Wakde TF, Tentative 
Plan for the Seizure of the Wakde Island Area, 1 2 
May 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 14 
May 44 : Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, chart 
after p. 18; TTF FO 1, 12 May 44, atchd to TTF 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44. 



As soon as the initial beachhead was se- 
cured, a reconnaissance of Insoemanai 
Island, about 3,500 yards offshore, was to 
be undertaken. If that islet proved unoc- 
cupied, a Provisional Groupment of heavy 
weapons was to be transported to it. The 
Provisional Groupment consisted of Com- 
pany B, 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion 
(4.2-inch mortars), and all the 81-mm. 
mortars, .50-caliber machine guns, and .30- 
caliber heavy machine guns available to the 
163d Infantry. As soon as these weapons 
were emplaced, they would begin firing on 
Wakde Island. 

The artillery of the Tornado Task Force 
included the 167th Field Artillery Battalion 
(105-mm. howitzers), which was part of 
the 163d Regimental Combat Team; the 
218th Field Artillery ( 155-mm. howitzers) ; 
and the Cannon Company, 163d Infantry 
(105-mm. howitzers, M3). These units 
were to operate under the control of Head- 
quarters, 191st Field Artillery Group, the 
commanding officer of which, Col. George 
M. Williamson, Jr., was also task force 
artillery officer. Following the infantry 
ashore as rapidly as the tactical situation 
permitted, the artillery was to set up near 
Arare to provide support for the ground 
troops moving toward the flanks of the 
beachhead and for the shore-to-shore move- 
ment against W akde Island on D plus 1 . 

The latter maneuver was to be under- 
taken by the 1st Battalion, 163d Infantry. 
The Wakde assault was to be covered not 
only by the task force artillery but also by 
the Provisional Groupment on Insoemanai 
and by naval fire support ships. The landing 
was scheduled to begin at 0830, 18 May. 115 

10 TTF FO 1, 12 May 44; 191st FA Gp, Hist Rpt 
Tornado Landing Force, pp. 1-2. The tank de- 
stroyers' 4.2-inch mortars were actually part of the 
Tornado Task Force artillery, under the 191st 
Field Artillery Group, but operated in a semide- 



214 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



The naval organization for the Wakde- 
Biak operation centered on the Naval At- 
tack Force, commanded by Rear Adm. Wil- 
liam M. Fechteler (USN). 20 The admiral 
delegated responsibility for the Wakde phase 
of the operation to Capt. Albert G. Noble, 
(USN), whose command was designated 
the Eastern Attack Group. Captain Noble 
divided his fire support ships into three 
groups: Fire Support Group A (two heavy 
cruisers and four destroyers), Fire Support 
Group B (three light cruisers and six de- 
stroyers), and Fire Support Group C (ten 
destroyers ) . These ships were to begin firing 
on assigned targets at H minus 45 minutes 
and were to continue bombardment until H 
minus 3. The bulk of the D-Day fire was to 
be aimed at Sawar and Maffin Dromes, west 
of the landing beach. No resistance was ex- 
pected at the beach and a light bombard- 
ment to be directed on it was purely pre- 
cautionary. Some fire support ships were 
assigned counterbattery missions and others 
were to aim their shells at Wakde and In- 
soemanai Islands. 

Other ships assigned to participate in the 
landing phase were 3 submarine chasers, 2 
destroyer-escorts, 4 mine sweepers, 2 rocket- 
equipped submarine chasers, and 3 rocket- 
equipped LCI's. Rocket fire was to begin at 
H minus 3 minutes and was to be directed 
principally against the beachhead area. At 
H minus 1 , all fire on the beach was to cease 
and the landing craft were to make their 
final dash to the shore. After the landing, 
the fire support ships were to shift bombard- 
ment to targets on the beach flanks and were 
to be prepared to deliver call fire upon re- 
quest from the troops ashore. The landing 
on Insoemanai was to be supported by two 

tached manner while with the Provisional Group- 
ment. 

30 At this time Admiral Fechteler was also Deputy- 
Commander, VII Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet, 



LCI(G)'s and two destroyers. Throughout 
the night of 17-18 May, cruisers and de- 
stroyers were to bombard Wakde and on the 
morning of the 18th they and the rocket- 
equipped vessels were to support the assault 
on that island. On the 19th a few destroyers 
were to support the landings on Liki and 
Niroemoar Islands, 21 

The Air Support Plan 

Prior to 1 7 May the Allied Air Forces was 
to undertake intensive bombardment of the 
Wakde-Sarmi area and other Japanese in- 
stallations along the north coast of New 
Guinea. Special attention was to be given 
enemy fields east of the Vogelkop Peninsula 
and on Biak Island. Japanese waterborne 
supply and reinforcement movements in the 
Geelvink Bay area were to be stopped inso- 
far as weather, time, and the availability of 
aircraft permitted. The surface convoys 
moving toward the target were to be fur- 
nished air cover, and close support during 
the landings was also to be made available. 

Most of these missions were assigned to 
the U. S. Fifth Air Force, but other elements 
of the Allied Air Forces had their own tasks 
in support of the operation. The XIII Air 
Task Force was to take part in the Wakde— 
Biak operation by assuming responsibility 
for many air activities in eastern New 
Guinea and New Britain in order to relieve 
Fifth Air Force units for movement forward 
to Hollandia and, ultimately, to Wakde Is- 
land. The XIII Air Task Force was also to 
bomb Japanese installations on such Caro- 
line Islands as were within range of the 
unit's new base on the Admiralties in order 



21 CTG 77.2 Attack Order 1-44 (Rev), 13 May 
44, and Wakde TF, Tentative Plan for the Seizure 
of the Wakde Island Area, 12 May 44, both in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 14 May 44; CTG 77.2 
Opns Rpt Toem— Wakde, p. 3. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 

to forestall enemy interference with the 
Wakde-Biak operation from the north. The 
task force's long-range bombers were to sup- 
plement Fifth Air Force sorties against Jap- 
anese fields in western New Guinea, includ- 
ing those at Wakde, Sarmi, and Biak. 

Australian air units also had important 
support missions and were to strike all Japa- 
nese airfields in northwestern New Guinea 
(west of and including Noemfoor Island) 
within range of the bomber bases at Dar- 
win, Australia. While the Fifth Air Force 
was primarily responsible for the enemy 
fields east of Noemfoor, Fifth Air Force 
bombers were also to participate in the 
strikes on the more westerly targets. Insofar 
as range, weather, and time permitted, Aus- 
tralian bombers, aided by a Dutch squadron 
of B-25's, were to neutralize enemy air bases 
on the Arafura Sea islands and on other 
islands of the Indies southwest of the 
Vogelkop. 22 

On D minus 1 Fifth Air Force bombers 
were to attempt detonation of possible land 
mines on the mainland beach and subsur- 
faces mines in the waters surrounding 
Wakde. On the morning of D Day there 
was to be additional bombing west of the 
landing area, but there was to be no bomb- 
ing or strafing of the beach immediately 
before the assault. 23 Fighters were to be on 
air alert, weather permitting, over the 

35 AAF SWPA, OI 51, 1 May 44, and GHQ 
SWPA OI 51/1, 10 May 44, both in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44. 

M Available documents produce no information 
concerning the reasons for eliminating the usual 
beach bombing and strafing. It is possible that both 
were considered unnecessary, or that both might en- 
danger landing craft and ships operating in relatively 
restricted waters near Wakde. Finally, fighters had 
to fly long distances to cover the landings, thus 
limiting their time over the target. The AAF SWPA 
may have considered it more important to conserve 
ammunition against the possibility of Japanese air 
attack than to strafe beaches. 



215 

Wakde area from first light to dusk on D 
Day. During part of the day A— 20's would 
also be on alert over the area and were to 
strike Wakde. Such daily cover was to con- 
tinue until aircraft could use the Wakde 
strip. 24 

Supply and Reinforcement 

By evening on D plus 2, considered the 
end of the assault phase, the Tornado Task 
Force on Wakde and the mainland opposite 
would comprise some 9,700 troops. Of this 
number, about 7,000 were to be landed at 
Arare on D Day. The ships for the D-Day 
echelon included 2 APA's, 12 LCI's, and 8 
LST's. The first Reinforcement Group, 
scheduled to arrive on D plus 1 , was to bring 
forward engineers and other service troops 
aboard eight additional LST's, After D plus 
2, the task force was to be built up by air 
force and ground combat or service units 
until it numbered close to 22,500 men. 25 

Units moving to Arare on D Day and 
D plus 1 were to carry with them ten days' 
supply of rations, clothing, unit equipment, 
fuels, and lubricants. Engineer construction 
materiel was to be shipped in sufficient 
quantities to assure a quick start on airfield 
repairs and preparation of roads, bivouacs, 
and storage areas. The amounts and types 
of such materiel were left to the discretion of 
the task force commander. Ammunition 



M Alamo Force FO 17, 12 May 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44; Wakde TF, Tenta- 
tive Plan for the Seizure of the Wakde Island Area, 
12 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 14 May 
44; AAF SWPA OI 51, 1 May 44. 

!! CTG 77.2 Attack Order 1-44 (Rev), 13 May 
44; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Toem- Wakde, p. 4; Ltr, 
Gen Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, no sub, copy in 
OCMH files. Although it is not clear from available 
records, the figure 22,500 apparently included the 
158th Regimental Combat Team, which was to 
reach Arare by 23 May. 



216 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



carried by assault units was to consist of six 
units of fire for 4.2-inch mortars and three 
units of fire for all other weapons, both in- 
fantry and artillery. Additional ammunition 
for field artillery units and for the 4.2-inch 
mortars was to be shipped separately to 
arrive on D plus 1 and D plus 2. All troops 
arriving after D plus 2 were to bring with 
them thirty days' supply of rations, unit 
equipment, clothing, fuels, lubricants, and 
three units of fire for all weapons. 26 

Initial responsibility for the transporta- 
tion of troops and supplies to the Wakde 
area rested with the Allied Naval Forces 
which exercised this responsibility through 
the VII Amphibious Force and the Eastern 
Attack Group. The Services of Supply was 
to relieve the naval forces of this duty as 
quickly as possible after D Day. The target 
date for the transfer of responsibility was 
set for D plus 11, 28 May. 27 

Alamo Force Reserve for Wakde-Biak 
was set up to support either phase of the 
operation, and there were two reserve units. 
One was the 128th Regimental Combat 
Team of the 32d Division, which was to 
stage at Aitape should its services be re- 
quired in the forward area. The other was 
the 158th Regimental Combat Team, an 
organization not part of any division. This 
combat team, which was built around the 
separate 158th Infantry, was to move from 
eastern New Guinea to the Wakde area on 
or about 23 May, ready to reinforce either 
the Tornado Task Force or units on Biak. 

The nucleus of the force scheduled to in- 
vade Biak was the 41st Infantry Division, 
less the 163d Regimental Combat Team at 



20 TTF FO 1, 12 May 44, atchd to TTF Opns Rpt 
Wakdc-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44; Alamo Force Adm 
O 9, 13 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 
8-13 May 44. 

"Ibid.; GHQ SWPA OI 51/1, 10 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44. 



Wakde. The most logical reinforcing unit 
for Biak would be the 163d. Tentative plans 
were therefore made to have the LCI's of 
the Biak assault convoy return thence to 
Wakde, pick up the 163d in the latter area, 
and move the unit forward to Biak on or 
about 3 June. The plan to move the 158th 
Regimental Combat Team to Wakde by 23 
May was evolved in order to assure the 
availability of the 163d for Biak. 28 

The Tornado Task Force had no specific 
separate reserve units set aside for D Day. 
However, the 27th Engineer Battalion (C) , 
scheduled to come ashore in the fifth wave 
at Arare, was to be prepared to assemble in 
task force reserve in addition to its other 
duties. The 1st Platoon, 603d Tank Com- 
pany, though part of the force scheduled to 
invade Wakde Island on D plus 1, would 
also be available as a reserve on D Day. 
Finally, the three rifle companies of the 1st 
Battalion, 163d Infantry, were not assigned 
any combat missions on D Day. They were 
to assemble near Toem in preparation for 
the next day's assault on Wakde but could 
also be considered an emergency reserve for 
mainland operations. 89 

Airfield Construction Problems 

Even before the Wakde-Biak plans were 
completed, increasing importance was being 
given to the early capture and repair of the 
W akde airstrip. The principal mission of the 
airdrome construction units due to arrive at 
Wakde on D plus 1 was to prepare rapidly 
facilities on that island to accommodate one 
fighter group. Initially it was planned that 
facilities would also be constructed on 



28 Alamo Force FO 17, 12 May 44; Alamo Force 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 12; Rad, Alamo to GHQ 
SWPA, WH-63, 25 May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 
May 44. 

33 TTF FO 1, 12 May 44. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



217 



Wakde to permit staging ( as opposed to bas- 
ing ) an additional fighter group, one flight 
of night fighters, and a reconnaissance 
squadron. Such facilities were thought to be 
the minimum necessary to support the Biak 
operation. 30 

While these plans were being formulated, 
new information was received at General 
Headquarters indicating that the Japanese 
might react strongly, with both air and naval 
forces, to an invasion of Biak. Therefore the 
Allied Air Forces recommended changing 
the Wakde airdrome to permit one P-47 
fighter group and one Navy PB4Y patrol 
bomber squadron 31 to be permanently based 
on the island. General Kenney, the theater 
air commander, also considered it necessary 
to extend staging facilities on Wakde to in- 
clude space for one B-25 tactical reconnais- 
sance squadron, another fighter group, and 
two B— 24 heavy bomber groups. Plans had 
to be made to improve the Wakde strip to 
meet the new requirements by 25 May, two 
days before landings were to be made on 
Biak. 32 

A few days before the Wakde operation 
began, Admiral Nimitz requested air sup- 
port from the Southwest Pacific for his im- 
pending operations against the Mariana Is- 
lands. The mission which Admiral Nimitz 
desired to be initiated immediately was long- 
range reconnaissance from Hollandia for a 
distance of 800 miles over the Hollandia- 

M Alamo Force FO 17, 12 May 44. 

31 The PB4Y was a naval version of the Army 
B-24, and was land based. The particular squadron 
under consideration (VB-115) was administratively 
a part of the Seventh Fleet but was assigned to the 
operational control of the AAF SWPA. 

32 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo, AAF SWPA, et 
al., CX-12690, 19 May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 19 
May 44; Rad, Alamo to Tornado TF, WF-3377, 
20 May 44, and Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-174, 21 
May 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 
16-22 May 44. 



Halmaheras— Yap triangle. He further re- 
quested that the Allied Air Forces undertake 
to neutralize enemy airdromes on the Palau, 
Yap, and Woleai Islands of the Caroline 
chain from the 9th through the 15th of June 
in order to cover the approach of Central 
Pacific convoys to the Marianas. 33 

Since the Hollandia area could not meet 
requirements for extensive operations of B— 
24's and PB4Y's, General Kenney decided 
that the Wakde Island strip would have to 
bear much of the bombing and reconnais- 
sance load. Air operations from Wakde 
would have to begin not later than 2 June, 
in order that the missions Admiral Nimitz 
requested might become routine to Japa- 
nese intelligence well before Central Pacific 
convoys set out for the Marianas. 

To fit the Wakde strip into these plans, 
staging facilities would have to be con- 
structed on that island beyond the extent 
deemed necessary by General Kenney for 
the proper support of the Biak operation. 
Provision also had to be made for shipping 
forward to Wakde additional fuels and lu- 
bricants, together with bombs and other air- 
craft ammunition. After much discussion, 
the headquarters concerned with the devel- 
opment of an air base on Wakde decided 
that most of the necessary improvements 
could be made on the island by 2 June. A 
judicious juggling of ship loading and sailing 
schedules also made it possible to send the 
necessary equipment and ammunition for- 
ward to Wakde by the same date. Fulfill- 
ment of all Admiral Nimitz' requests would, 
however, have to await the capture and re- 
pair of airdromes on Biak Island. In the 
meantime it remained of the utmost impor- 

83 Rad, GHQ SWPA to Alamo SWPA, et al., 
CX--12504, 14 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 14-18 May 44. 



218 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tance that the Wakde strip be seized and 
repaired quickly. 34 

Preparations for the Capture of Wakde 
Island 

General Doe and his Tornado Force 
planning staff learned of the change from 
the Wakde-Sarmi plan to the Wakde-Biak 
concept on 10 May. The planners returned 
to Aitape, where the bulk of the Tornado 
Task Force was to stage, on 12 May after a 
conference at Alamo Force headquarters. 
Although the new Wakde-Biak plan de- 
layed the date for the landings in the Wakde 
area from the 15th to the 1 7th of May, there 
was still scant time for perfecting new plans, 
revising orders and issuing new ones, and 
changing loading instructions and schedules. 

A series of untoward circumstances ham- 
pered loading. LST's on which Tornado 
Task Force units at Aitape were to be loaded 
were some eight hours late reaching the 
staging point. When these vessels finally 
reached Aitape, adverse surf conditions and 
congestion on the shore prevented their 
beaching until late in the afternoon of 13 
May, and loading was delayed another 
twelve hours. There was also some trouble 
about units scheduled to take part in the 
Wakde operation. The Shore Battalion, 
533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 
an important element of the Tornado Task 
Force, did not arrive at Aitape until the 
afternoon of 12 May. The battalion and its 
equipment could not be unloaded from the 
ships which had brought it to Blue Beach 
from eastern New Guinea and be reloaded 
on LST's of the Wakde convoy in time for 

S1 Ibid.,- Rad, Alamo to GHQ SWPA, WF-2339, 
15 May 44, and Rad, AAF SWPA to Advon 5AF, 
Alamo, et al., AX-33325, 15 May 44, both in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 14-18 May 44. 



the departure of the task force from Aitape, 
scheduled for no later than midnight on 14 
May. In view of these logistic difficulties, 
General Doe recommended to Alamo Force 
that the Wakde operation be delayed at least 
another forty-eight hours. 85 

Captain Noble, Eastern Attack Group 
commander, had wanted the Aitape vessels 
to depart that staging point by 1800 on 14 
May. Alamo Force had already persuaded 
him to postpone the departure to midnight, 
but would not request the further delay pro- 
posed by General Doe. The task force com- 
mander was therefore forced to drive his 
troops to the limit of their endurance in 
order to get the loading finished on time. He 
solved the problem of the Shore Battalion, 
533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 
by substituting for that unit the Shore Bat- 
talion, 593d Engineer Boat and Shore 
Regiment, which was already stationed at 
Aitape. 36 

By working throughout the night of 
13-14 May, all units of the Aitape convoy 
were loaded by about 2200 on the latter day. 
The vessels left for Hollandia at 0100 on 
15 May, arriving at Humboldt Bay about 
1000. At Humboldt Bay the rest of the 
Tornado Task Force's assault echelon 
(mostly service troops) was quickly loaded, 
despite chronic beach congestion in the area. 
About 0200 on the 16th the LST's and their 
escorts left Humboldt Bay for Tanahmerah 
Bay, reaching their destination about day- 
light. The LST section spent the rest of the 

M TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44, 
p. 2; Rad, PTF to Alamo, AE-714, 13 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44. 

''Ibid.; Rad, Alamo to PTF, WF^2156, 13 May 
44, and Rad, Alamo to GTF 76, WF-2157, 13 May 
44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 
44; Rad, CTF 76 to Alamo, 13 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 14 May 44. Both EB&SR's 
were part of the 3d Engr Special Brigade. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



219 



day at Tanahmerah Bay and moved out for 
Wakde during darkness of the night 16—17 
May. The APA's and LCI's with their 
escorts left Humboldt Bay for Wakde about 
1900 on the 16th. 

The cruisers and destroyers of Covering 
Forces A and B did not assemble with the 
rest of the convoy in the Hollandia area. 
Instead, in order to escape detection by 
Japanese air patrols, they rendezvoused off 
the Admiralty Islands on 15 May. During 
the night of 16-17 May the two covering 
forces maintained contact with the assault 
shipping by radar. At dawn on the 1 7th the 
fire support ships closed with the rest of the 
convoy and took up their firing positions off 
Arare and Wakde Island. 37 

Dawn brought with it a cold drizzle, but 
the fire support ships had no difficulty pick- 
ing up their landmarks and the naval fire 
started on schedule.* 5 Designated targets 
were well covered and there was no answer- 
ing fire from Japanese shore-based weapons. 
Troops aboard the assault ships arose early, 
breakfasted quickly, and by 0530 had begun 
loading on their assigned landing craft. The 
sea remained calm and the rain gave way to 
the sun shortly after dawn. Men of the 3d 
Battalion, 163d Infantry, transferred from 
the APA's which had brought them from 
Aitape to the eight LCVP's of the first wave. 



31 TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44, 
p. 2; CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde, p. 7; 
Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 29; Rad, 
CTF 76 to Alamo, 10 May 44, in Alamo G— 3 Jnl 
Wakde, 8-13 May 44. 

38 Information in this and the following subsection 
is taken primarily from: CTU 77.2.6 [TF 75, or 
Covering Force A] Opns Rpt Wakde-Toem, p. 1 ; 
CTG 77.2 Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde, pp. 7-8; TTF 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 1 7-25 May 44, pp. 2-3 ; 
TTF G-3 Jnl and Jnl file, 6-25 May 44; 163d Inf 
Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde, p. 2; 163d Inf Jnl, 13-30 
May 44; Ltr, Gen Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, in 
OCMH files; 191st FA Gp, Hist Rpt Tornado, 
pp. 2-3. 



The beach was clearly visible and its limits 
had been marked by colored smoke grenades 
dropped by cruiser-based seaplanes of the 
fire support units. Landing craft carrying 
the leading wave, Company I, 163d Infan- 
try, touched the shore near Arare on sched- 
ule at 0715. Succeeding waves formed 
rapidly and beached without difficulty. 
There was no Japanese opposition. 

The mainland area of immediate concern 
to the Tornado Task Force extended west 
from Arare about four miles to the Tor 
River, and east an almost equal distance to 
Tementoe Creek. Between these two streams 
is a hard, sandy beach about 250 yards 
deep, unbroken except by one small creek. 38 
Behind this coastal strand there is a low, 
somewhat swampy area, covered with jun- 
gle undergrowth and patches of dense rain 
forest. This low area extends from two and 
one-half to six miles inland to foothills of 
mountain ranges. The men of the Tornado 
Task Force found a coastal track, which 
almost reached the dignity of a road at some 
points, running along the beach. There is no 
high ground near Arare. The main drainage 
system of the area is the Tor River, which, 
together with Tementoe Creek, offered nat- 
ural obstacles to lateral movement. 

Upon landing, the 3d Battalion, 163d 
Infantry, fanned out along the shore and 
quickly secured the Arare beachhead area. 
Company A of the 116th Engineer Bat- 
talion and the 27th Engineers were the 
next units ashore, and they were followed 
about 0735 by the 1st and 2d Battalions of 
the 163d Infantry. The 2d Battalion, pass- 
ing through the 3d, immediately moved east- 
ward toward Tementoe Creek. By 0930, 

39 This creek lies about midway between Arare and 
the Tor River. It was referred to by the Tornado 
Task Force as "The Unnamed Creek" and called 
by the Japanese the Tenbin River. 



220 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




BRIG. GEN. JENS A. DOE and his 

aide, 1st Ll. Rob D. Trimble, of the 41st 
Infantry Division, during the landing at 
Arare. 



against no opposition, Company G had se- 
cured Toem, about 4,500 yards east of 
Arare, At 1010 the battalion commander, 
Maj. Robert L. Irving, reported that his 
men had reached their D-Day objective, the 
west bank of Tementoe Creek. The 1st Bat- 
talion, under Maj. Leonard A. Wing, fol- 
lowed the 2d east along the coastal road to 
Toem. At the latter village the 1st Battalion 
established a bivouac and began preparing 
for its attack on Wakde Island the next day. 

The 3d Battalion, under Maj. Garlyn 
Munkres, 40 dispatched Company L west to 
the Tor River. The company found a good 

40 Lt. Col. Walter R. Rankin, who had com- 
manded the 3d Battalion at Aitape, was now execu- 
tive officer of the 163d Infantry. 



foot bridge over the small creek between the 
Tor and Arare and, moving on against only 
scattered rifle fire, reached the Tor late in 
the morning. During the afternoon other 
elements of the 3d Battalion reached the 
river. The bulk of Company I, however, re- 
mained at the beachhead, where the men of 
the unit were assigned to labor details such 
as unloading shipping or to local security 
guard duties. The heavy weapons of Com- 
pany M also remained near Arare, for these 
weapons were part of the Provisional 
Groupment scheduled to support the next 
day's assault on Wakde. 

Within a few hours after the mainland 
beachhead had been secured, the Tornado 
Task Force was ready to execute the second 
phase of the D-Day plan — the capture of 
Insoemanai Island, a little over 3,500 yards 
offshore. About 1045, under cover of fire 
from two destroyers and two rocket- 
equipped LCI's, a platoon of Company E, 
163d Infantry, was transported from the 
mainland to Insoemanai. There was no op- 
position to this maneuver and the islet 
proved to be unoccupied. Four LCM's, an 
LCVP, and two LCS's immediately took 
the rest of the company and the Provisional 
Groupment of heavy weapons to Insoe- 
manai. The landing of the force was ren- 
dered difficult only by the fact that a coral 
fringing reef made it necessary for the troops 
to wade ashore from about seventy-five 
yards out. The mortars and machine guns 
of the Provisional Groupment were quickly 
set up and began firing on Wakde. 

Insoemanai had been easily taken and 
mainland opposition had been very light. 
Moreover, no signs of enemy activity had 
been observed on Wakde and information 
obtained prior to 1 7 May had indicated that 
the Japanese might have withdrawn their 
garrison from that island. Enthusiastically, 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



221 



some subordinate officers within the task 
force suggested that Wakde could be seized 
immediately and with little difficulty. But 
General Doe and Captain Noble vetoed such 
suggestions. They considered it probable 
that the enemy still retained a strong garri- 
son on Wakde and believed that attacking 
the island prior to concentrated artillery and 
naval bombardment would be a needless 
risk. General Doe decided that there would 
be no landing on Wakde until after intensive 
preparatory fire from the Provisional Group- 
ment on Insoemanai, and from naval sup- 
port ships, aircraft, and shore-based field 
artillery. 

The 218th and 167th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions and the Cannon Company, 163d In- 
fantry, had come ashore near Arare in mid- 
morning. By noon the units had set up firing 
positions about 2,000 yards east of Arare 
and had begun dropping shells on Wakde 
Island. This fire apparently goaded the Jap- 
anese on Wakde Island into answering, and 
during the afternoon the enemy began put- 
ting mortar and machine gun fire into the 
positions of the Provisional Groupment on 
Insoemanai. 

The fire from Wakde was the only Japa- 
nese ground opposition worthy of the name 
encountered by the Tornado Task Force on 
D Day. There was no naval or air reaction 
on the part of the enemy. The task force 
antiaircraft artillery, which had moved 
ashore before 0900 hours and had set up 
positions along the beach between Arare 
and Toem, found no targets. 

Task force engineers started work on the 
beach track as soon as they came ashore. By 
1400 the 27th Engineers had bulldozed a 
two-way road, capable of bearing heavy 
trucks, along the shore between Arare and 
Toem. The battalion, with Company A of 
the 116th Engineers attached, rapidly en- 



larged the scope of its activities and began 
clearing bivouac and dump areas and aid- 
ing the Shore Battalion, 593d Engineer Boat 
and Shore Regiment, to unload ships. The 
latter unit devoted its attention principally 
to moving cargo ashore, but also had men 
working on dump areas and construction of 
sand jetties from the beach to LST's. The 
1st Platoon, 603d Tank Company, came 
ashore at midmorning, went into bivouac 
near Arare, and prepared to move on call 
to either flank of the beachhead. The pla- 
toon's services were not required. 

The few casualties incurred on D Day 
from enemy action totaled one man killed 
and four wounded, all as a result of Japa- 
nese fire on Insoemanai from Wakde. Amer- 
ican artillery shorts 41 killed another and 
wounded six on Insoemanai. One man ac- 
cidentally wounded himself during the land- 
ing at Arare. Total American casualties for 
the day were 2 killed and 1 1 wounded, as 
opposed to 2 1 Japanese killed or found dead 
on the mainland. These Japanese appeared 
to be stragglers rather than members of an 
organized defense force. 

By 1800 all troops of the Tornado Task 
Force were dug in for the night, At task 
force headquarters final details of plans for 
the seizure of Wakde Island on the morrow 
were discussed and agreed upon. Shore- 
based artillery, the Provisional Groupment 
on Insoemanai, and some of the naval fire 
support ships were to deliver harassing fire 
on Wakde throughout the night. At 0715 
on 18 May, Fifth Air Force planes were to 
start an hour-long aerial bombardment of 
Wakde. At 0830 a heavy naval and artillery 

"According to the 191st Field Artillery Group's 
report, page 2, the short rounds were fired by the 
Cannon Company, 163d Infantry, and were at- 
tributed to that company's inexperience with its 
weapons. 



222 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



barrage was to begin. Until 0857 this gun- 
fire was to be aimed at the proposed landing 
beach on the southern shore of Wakde, and 
was then to be lifted to the northern side of 
the island. The Provisional Groupment on 
Insoemanai was to provide close support 
for the landings. 

H Hour for the assault was set for 0900 
hours, 18 May. Infantry forces consisted of 
four rifle companies — A, B, and C of the 
1st Battalion, 163d Infantry, and F of the 
2d Battalion. Four Sherman tanks (M4 
mediums, armed with 75-mm. guns) of the 
1st Platoon, 603d Tank Company, were 
also assigned to the assault force. The force 
commander was Major Wing of the 1st 
Battalion. The troops were to be transported 
to Wakde in six waves of four LCVP's each, 
the boats to be coxswained by Company B, 
542d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. 
LCM's were assigned to take the tanks from 
the mainland to Wakde. 42 

Small-Island Warfare, Southwest Pacific 
Style 

The Target — Terrain and Defenses 

Wakde Island, roughly 3,000 yards long 
and 1,200 yards wide, ha d been a coc onut 
plantation before the war (Map 10) The 
airstrip and associated installations con- 
structed by the Japanese covered almost one 
half of the island's surface, the remainder of 
which was left to neglected coconut trees. 
The island is generally flat, except for a knoll 
about twenty-five feet high on a small penin- 
sula jutting out from the southeastern shore. 
The rest of the island is not more than fifteen 



a The 542d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment 
was part of the 2d Engineer Special Brigade. Many 
of the men of Company B had had previous expe- 
rience in minor shore-to-shore operations in eastern 
New Guinea. 



feet above sea level, but even this slight ele- 
vation is enough to produce a number of 
small coral caves along the eastern shore. A 
coral reef completely surrounds the island. 
One of the three places at which this reef 
was found to be broken was in a sheltered 
bay west of the small peninsula, near the 
base of which a small jetty projected into the 
bay. The beach at the jetty was chosen as 
the landing site for the 1st Battalion, 163d 
Infantry , 43 

The nucleus of the Japanese garrison on 
Wakde Island was the 9th Company, 3d 
Battalion, 224th Infantry. This company 
was reinforced by a platoon of mountain ar- 
tillery ( 75-mm. guns ) and a few mortar and 
both light and heavy machine gun squads 
from other 224th Infantry units. The 
strength of this combat force was about 280 
men. There was also a naval guard unit of 
about 150 men, and a battery of the 53d 
Field Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, most 
of whose weapons had long since been de- 
molished. Miscellaneous airdrome engineers 
and other service personnel, both Army and 
Navy, brought the total of Japanese strength 
on the island to nearly 800 troops. 

While most of the arms possessed by the 
Wakde defenders were light mortars or rifles 
and machine guns not over .30-caliber in 
size, there were a few heavier weapons. 
Such weapons included a few 20-mm. anti- 
aircraft guns, and machine cannon and ,50- 
caliber machine guns taken from damaged 
Japanese aircraft. Apparently, none of the 
Japanese 75-mm. mountain guns survived 
the preliminary bombardment of Wakde 
Island. 

The Japanese had constructed many de- 
fensive positions on Wakde. There were 



"Terrain information from AGS SWPA, Ter- 
rain Handbook 26, Sarmi, 20 Apr 44, copy in 
OCMH files. 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



223 





11 Bra+a 



MAP 10 



about a hundred bunkers of various sizes 
and constructions. Some were made of coco- 
nut logs and dirt, others utilized cement in 
sacks, and a few contained concrete or 
lumps of coarse coral. There were many fox- 
holes and slit trenches, and the Japanese had 
improved some of the bomb craters to make 
defensive positions. There were at least two 
well-constructed concrete air raid shelters 
and the Japanese were prepared to use the 
few coral caves on the eastern shore for both 
defense and storage. 

Many of the defensive positions were well 



camouflaged, and some were dug deep into 
the ground to present a low silhouette. Coco- 
nut trees toppled by preassault bombard- 
ments added more natural camouflage and 
protection to the enemy's defensive posi- 
tions. The majority of the many bunkers 
were mutually supporting, but, on the other 
hand, some had been built with no apparent 
relationship to others. Some of the bunkers, 
most of the field and antiaircraft gun posi- 
tions, the airstrip, and many buildings had 
been severely damaged or destroyed by U. S. 
Fifth Fleet carrier-based aircraft during 



224 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



their attacks on the Wakde-Sarmi area in 
support of the Hollandia operation. Army 
aircraft had taken up the bombardment 
after that, and, according to Japanese re- 
ports, the Wakde strip had been damaged 
beyond all hope of repair (that is, with 
equipment available to the Japanese) by 2 
May. Allied naval and air bombardment of 
Wakde, beginning on 1 7 May, added to the 
earlier destruction. However, the Japanese 
Wakde garrison was still capable of a 
tenacious defense.* 4 

The First Day 

Naval fire started on schedule on 18 
May. 46 By the time it ended, 400 rounds 
of 6-inch and 1,950 rounds of 5-inch 
ammunition had been expended against 
Wakde's defenses. In addition, rocket- 
equipped LCI's threw 850 4.5-inch rockets 
on the island, and 36 A-20's of the Fifth 
Air Force bombed and strafed the Japanese 
defenses. The 191st Field Artillery Group 
fired for twenty-three minutes on Wakde, 
and this bombardment was supplemented 
by 20-mm. and 40-mm. weapons aboard 
naval support vessels upon completion of 



** The foregoing information was compiled from : 
Army Section, Imperial GHQ, Special Report on 
Lessons from the War, No. 33, Operations of the 
Yuki Group (36th Division, reinforced) in the Biak 
Island and Sarmi Areas, 3 Oct 44 (hereafter cited 
as Opns of Yuki Group), pp. 12-13, translation in 
OCMH files; Naval Operations in the Western New 
Guinea Area, pp. 7-8 ; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 
45, 14 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; S-2, 1st 
Bn 163d Inf, Rpt on Wakde Island Defenses, n. d., 
in 163d Inf Jnl, 13-30 May 44; CO, Co B 163d 
Inf, Rpt to S-l, 1st Bn 163d Inf, sub: Tank Attack 
on Wakde Island, 30 Jul 44, and CO Co A 163d 
Inf, Rpt to CO, 163d Inf, sub: Inf and Tank Co- 
ordination, 12 Aug 44, both docs in files of 163d 
Inf, 41st Div, in ORB RAC AGO collection. See 
also Japanese Studies in WW II, 117, General Out- 
line of 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), 
pp. 6,14-17. 



the latters' fire from heavier weapons. 
The Provisional Groupment on Insoemanai 
joined in. 

The first wave of LCVP's, Company B 
aboard, began to receive Japanese rifle and 
machine gun fire from about 300 yards out, 
but pushed on toward Wakde to hit the 
beach a few yards to the left of the jetty at 
0910. The other three rifle companies and 
two tanks were ashore in the same area by 
0925. * fi A third tank had shorted its electri- 
cal system while loading from the mainland 
and a fourth dropped into seven feet of 
water as it left its LCM's ramp. Neither got 
to Wakde on 18 May. All landing waves 
were subjected to increasing fire from Jap- 
anese machine guns and rifles in hidden 
positions on the flanks of the beachhead. 
Luckily, the Japanese, for unknown reasons, 
failed to bring into play ,50-caliber and 
20-mm. weapons. As it was, three company 
commanders were lost during the landing, 
one killed and two wounded. 

Despite this opposition, the beachhead 
was quickly organized. Company executive 
officers assumed command of the leaderless 



"This section is based principally on: CTG 77.2 
Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde, pp. 8-10; TTF Opns Rpt 
Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44, pp. 3-7; 163d Inf 
Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde, pp. 2^; TTF G-3 Jnl 
and Jnl file, 6-25 May 44; 163d Inf Jnl, 13-30 May 
44; 1st Bn 163d Inf, S-l Jnl, 15-30 May 44, in 
files of 163d Inf, 41st Div, in ORB RAC AGO col- 
lection; CO, Co A, 163d Inf, Rpt to CO, 163d Inf, 
12 Aug 44; "One Step Westward," The Infantry 
Journal, LVI, 3, 8-13 (the article is signed, "By a 
Battalion Commander," but was actually written 
by Maj. Leonard A. Wing, ex-CO 1st Bn, 163d Inf) . 

48 Documents concerning the action provide con- 
tradictory information about the times and places 
of landing, but it appears that Company B went 
ashore at 0910, Company F at 0913, Company A at 
0916, Company C at 0921, and the two tanks about 
0925, Elements of Company B apparently tried to 
land or started to land about 0903. Some sources in- 
dicate that only Company B landed on the left of the 
jetty, and others state that only Company A landed 
on the right of the jetty. 




THE ASSAULT ON WAKDE ISLAND, against Japanese machine gun and rifle fire. 



226 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



units, and the two tanks, with Companies B 
and F, started moving west to widen the 
initial hold. Company C struck north 
toward the airstrip and Company A pushed 
to the southeast along the small peninsula 
to destroy a troublesome machine gun nest 
on the little knoll. Company A reached the 
top of the knoll about 0935. The unit's prog- 
ress was temporarily halted ten minutes 
later at an enemy bunker, the occupants 
of which were finally killed with hand gre- 
nades, but by 1 045 the company, employing 
fire and movement, had finished clearing 
the peninsula and had assembled for further 
missions. Companies B and F, after meeting 
initial heavy resistance on the west flank, 
found that most opposition collapsed once 
the ruins of prewar plantation houses had 
been cleared by hand grenades and rifle fire. 
The two companies thereupon left the beach 
and swung north toward the airfield. Com- 
pany C, meanwhile, had encountered strong 
resistance in its drive up the center of the 
island. 

About 200 yards inland Company C had 
come upon a number of mutually support- 
ing pillboxes. The first group of bunkers was 
found about 0915, and the company spent 
nearly an hour clearing them out with hand 
grenades and infantry assault. About 100 
yards farther north, at 1015, a second set 
of pillboxes held up the advance. All these 
defensive positions were found to be well 
concealed by Japanese efforts, by under- 
brush of the neglected coconut plantation, 
or by coconut trees toppled in the preassault 
bombardments. Finding progress against 
such bunkers laborious, Company C called 
for tank support. The two available tanks, 
which had been operating on the left flank 
with Companies B and F, had returned to 
the beachhead to replenish ammunition at 
1030, and were now ordered to aid C Com- 



pany. Just before 1130 hours the tanks 
joined the infantry unit, which had now 
pushed halfway from the beach to the air- 
strip. With this added strength Company 
C reduced each bunker in a series of sepa- 
rate actions which included 75-mm. fire 
from the tanks, lobbing hand grenades into 
the bunkers' fire ports, and killing with rifle 
fire all Japanese who showed themselves. 

While Company C's drive continued, 
Company B, about 1030, had reached the 
southern edge of the airfield near the center 
of that strip. A few minutes later Company 
F, less one platoon left to mop up around 
the plantation houses, pulled up on B's left. 
The two companies had encountered only 
scattered opposition after leaving the plan- 
tation house area, and Company F had 
found the western portion of the strip clear 
of enemy forces. Company B pushed east 
along the south side of the drome, crossed 
Company C's front, and helped the latter 
unit destroy some of the bunkers which had 
been slowing its advance. With Company 
B's aid and the continued support of the two 
tanks, Company C was able to push on to 
the airstrip, where it arrived shortly after 
1130. 

The Company F platoon which was clear- 
ing out the nearly demolished remnants of 
the prewar coconut plantation buildings 
about 300 yards northwest of the initial 
beachhead was halted and pinned down by 
enemy machine gun fire. Company A was 
therefore withdrawn from the small penin- 
sula and sent to the platoon's aid, and the 
two tanks rumbled back from Company C's 
front to assist. Shortly after noon, following 
about half an hour of close-in fighting with 
rifles, grenades, tank machine guns, and 
even bayonets, the plantation houses were 
cleared. The Company F platoon then re- 
joined its parent unit at the airstrip, while 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



227 



Company A and the two tanks moved north- 
west to clear the western end of the island. 

Company A pushed along the beach road 
and down a dispersal lane running off the 
southwest side of the strip. About 1245 the 
advance was held up by three Japanese 
bunkers on the right flank. Tank 75-mm. 
fire, delivered from as close as 20 yards, soon 
eliminated the Japanese defenders. Small 
groups of Japanese, originally hiding in fox- 
holes behind the three pillboxes, attempted 
to assault the tanks with hand grenades and 
bayonets. Company A's automatic rifle- 
men quickly dispersed or killed these men, 
and the unit pushed on around the west end 
of the airstrip. Little opposition was encoun- 
tered in this movement and the company 
reached the north shore of Wakde Island 
about 1330 hours. 

In the northeast corner of the island the 
Japanese forces maintained a tenacious de- 
fense, and Companies B, C, and F were 
subjected to considerable small arms, ma- 
chine gun, and mortar fire originating from 
positions at the eastern end of the airstrip. 
Movement eastward along the south side 
of the strip was slow, even though Com- 
panies B and F had been reinforced by Com- 
pany D's heavy machine guns, which had 
arrived on Wakde from Insoemanai late 
in the morning. To overcome the enemy 
opposition and secure the rest of Wakde, 
Major Wing planned a complicated maneu- 
ver. Company A, from the northwest corner 
of the island, was to move east along the 
northern side of the field to clear the Japa- 
nese from the area between the strip and 
the north shore. Company C was to cross 
the strip and then swing east toward the 
northeast corner of Wakde in co-operation 
with Company A's drive. Company B was 
to continue pushing east along the southern 
edge of the airfield, clear the eastern third 



of the drome, and then push around the end 
of the strip into the northeast corner of the 
island. Company F was initially to follow 
Company B. When the latter unit reached 
the eastern end of the strip, Company F was 
to move to the island's eastern beaches and 
thence north along the shore line to the 
northeast tip. 

This attack was slow in getting under 
way. Several officers and key noncommis- 
sioned officers, including three company 
commanders, had been killed or seriously 
wounded during the morning's action, and 
all four rifle companies faced problems of 
reorganization. Major Wing therefore de- 
cided to await the arrival of two more tanks 
from the mainland and the redisposition of 
Company D's weapons before attacking 
what promised to be the strongest Japanese 
defenses on Wakde. The two additional 
tanks were to be used wherever opposition 
proved heaviest, while the heavy weapons of 
Company D were to be equally divided be- 
tween Companies B and F. Finally, an ad- 
ditional delay was incurred when Company 
C, which had managed to move less than 
half its men across the airstrip, came under 
intense machine gun fire from the east. This 
fire made it impossible for more troops to 
cross the open airfield. 

Artillery fire from the 218th and 167th 
Field Artillery Battalions on the mainland 
temporarily silenced the enemy machine 
guns, and more men of Company C crossed 
the airfield about 1545. At approximately 
the same time the other three companies 
started the drive eastward. Company A 
rapidly moved forward from the western 
end of the strip, passed through Company 
C at the halfway point, and pushed cau- 
tiously eastward. Movement after passing 
Company C was slowed by increasingly 
heavy machine gun and mortar fire from 



228 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the northeast section of the island. At 1800, 
when Major Wing ordered his men to dig 
in for the night, Company A had not quite 
reached the northeastern corner of the 
airfield. 

Meanwhile, south of the strip Company 
B had scarcely started its attack when fire 
from hidden Japanese machine guns held 
up the advance. Company F was immedi- 
ately pulled out of its reserve role and com- 
mitted to action on B's right flank. Two 
tanks were moved forward to Company B's 
front at the same time. Despite their best 
efforts and even with the tank support, 
Companies B and F were unable to progress 
more than 300 yards east of the lines of 
departure. Major Wing decided that since 
dusk was approaching it would be useless 
to continue the attack. The two companies 
were therefore halted and instructed to take 
up night defensive positions. 

Company A had set up its night perimeter 
about 1 00 yards short of the northeast cor- 
ner of the airdrome. Company B was on the 
south side of the strip about 450 yards from 
the eastern end, and Company F was on 
B's right. Company C was pulled back to 
the southern side of the field and extended 
Company F's line to the southeast beach at 
the base of the small peninsula. The bat- 
talion command post was about 400 yards 
behind the lines of Company F. There was 
no connection across the strip between Com- 
panies A and B. The former was in a 
dangerously exposed position. However, 
Japanese fire against the company perimeter 
ceased before dark, and the Japanese did 
not attack. 

Army casualties on Wakde during the day 
totaled 19 killed or died of wounds and 86 
wounded, while Navy casualties were 2 
killed and 8 wounded. Among the Army 
losses were 7 officers and 14 noncommis- 



sioned officers of the rank of staff sergeant 
and higher. Heaviest casualties were in 
Company B which lost 42 men, most of 
them during the later afternoon attack. No 
accurate count of Japanese dead could be 
made, but it was estimated that at least 200 
had been killed and many more wounded. 
There were no prisoners. 

Back at the beachhead, four LST's (in- 
cluding one used as a front-line hospital) 
and numerous smaller craft had unloaded 
engineer construction units and equipment 
during the afternoon in the hope that repair 
work could begin on the airdrome. The stub- 
born Japanese defense had forestalled the 
attainment of this objective, and Major 
Wing laid careful plans to secure the rest 
of the island on the morrow so that the vital 
repair work could be started. Company C, 
preceded by all available tanks (there were 
now three in action ) was to push along the 
east shore into the northeast pocket of Japa- 
nese resistance. Companies B and F were to 
continue their drives from the point at 
which they were halted on the 18th, co- 
operating with Company C in rolling up the 
Japanese left. Initially, Company A was to 
remain on the defensive to prevent any 
Japanese from escaping to the western por- 
tion of the island around the north side of 
the airfield. 

A New Air Base on the Road 
to the Philippines 

Luckily for Company A, the night of 18- 
19 May passed mostly without incident in 
the company sector. - " The battalion com- 

41 In addition to the sources used for the previous 
subsection, the following sources were also used for 
this subsection: CO, Co C 163d Inf, Rpt to CO, 
1st Bn 163d Inf, 31 Jul 44, sub: Infantry-Tank As- 
sault Teams, and CO, Co B 163d Inf Rpt to S-l, 1st 
Bn 163d Inf, 30 Jul 44, both in files of 163d Inf, 41st 
Div, in ORB RAC AGO collection. 




ENEMY DEFENSIVE POSITIONS ON WAKDE. Shelters made of coconut logs 
and dirt (top). Concrete air raid shelter (bottom). 



230 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



mand post, which was protected by elements 
of Company D, was not so fortunate. About 
0230 on the 19th a small group of enemy 
attacked the command post, and a half -hour 
fire fight raged in the darkness. Twelve Jap- 
anese were killed while three Americans, all 
of D Company, were wounded. This night 
battle did not delay the next day's attack 
which started, after an artillery and mortar 
preparation of one hour's duration, at 0915. 

Company C was the first unit under way 
on the 1 9th. Two tanks were assigned to the 
3d Platoon and one to the 2d. The 3d Pla- 
toon was on the left, the 2d on the right, and 
the 1st and Weapons Platoons were in sup- 
port. The 3d Platoon pushed eastward up 
a slight rise, harassed by light rifle fire from 
the front and left flank. Once on top of the 
rise the platoon met heavy Japanese fire 
from behind fallen coconut trees and from 
a number of bunkers, bomb craters, and de- 
molished buildings to the east. The 75-mm. 
guns of the tanks methodically destroyed 
each enemy position, and the few enemy 
that escaped from the bunkers were cut 
down by 3d Platoon riflemen. The 2d Pla- 
toon, followed by the rest of C Company, 
moved on toward the eastern beaches, and 
was slowed only by heavy brush near the 
shore. Upon turning north at the beach the 
company found that the Japanese had con- 
verted a number of small coral caves into 
minor strong points. These were slowly 
cleared by riflemen, tank fire, and flame 
throwers as the company pushed on. 

Meanwhile, Company B, moving east 
along the south edge of the airstrip, had also 
encountered many Japanese defensive posi- 
tions. Progress was at a snail's pace. Com- 
pany F, in reserve during the early part of 
the drive, was thrown into the fight on B's 
right flank about 1130 and two tanks were 
sent from Company C's front to support 



Company B. The latter, with its zone of re- 
sponsibility now nearly halved, was able to 
concentrate its forces for more effective op- 
erations. A rifle platoon was assigned to each 
tank and the remaining rifle platoon was in 
support. Some Japanese were found hidden 
in wrecks of aircraft, some of which covered 
bunkers, and others were in foxholes in 
heavy brush. This brush was difficult for 
soldiers afoot to penetrate but the tanks, 
spraying every likely hiding place with ma- 
chine gun fire, rapidly broke paths through 
it. The advance, even with the tank support, 
was slow, because it was necessary to comb 
every square foot of ground for Japanese 
riflemen. It was not until 1400 that Com- 
pany B reached the southeast corner of the 
strip. 

On B's right, Company F and one tank 
encountered similar opposition but man- 
aged to keep abreast of Companies B and C. 
Late in the afternoon both F and C turned 
north and about 1600 hours reached a line 
extending almost due east from the south- 
east corner of the strip to the east shore. 
Meanwhile, since the Japanese were main- 
taining a static defense and making no at- 
tempt to counterattack or escape to the west, 
Company A's holding mission had been can- 
celed. The unit moved away from the north- 
east corner of the airfield, sending part of its 
strength to the north shore and the rest 
around the eastern side of the strip to make 
contact with Company B. This contact was 
established near the northeast corner at 
1640. The principal objective of the Tor- 
nado Task Force was thereby secured. 

With the clearance of the eastern end of 
the field, organized Japanese resistance 
collapsed. Companies B, C, and F pushed 
rapidly northward and by 1800, when the 
day's action ceased, the Japanese were com- 
pressed into a small triangle, about 500 



THE SEIZURE OF WAKDE ISLAND 



231 



yards long on the inland leg, at the north- 
east corner of the island. It was estimated 
that 350 Japanese had been killed during 
the day. Major Wing made plans to mop 
up the remaining few on the 20th, and 
pulled most of his units back to the center 
of the island for the night for a hot meal 
and rest. 

Action on the 20th opened with a banzai 
charge by 37 Japanese (who had apparently 
slipped through Company C's lines during 
the night) against engineer units at the 
beachhead. Within minutes after this attack 
started at 0730, there were 36 dead and 1 
wounded Japanese — the latter was taken 
prisoner. At 0900 Companies A, C, and F 
started patrolling in the northeast pocket. 
A few Japanese were killed, others were 
buried by demolition charges in coral caves 
along the northeast shore, and many com- 
mitted suicide. During the afternoon Major 
Wing's men moved back to the mainland 
and turned over control of Wakde Island to 
the Allied Air Forces. Two days later Com- 
pany L, 163 d Infantry, was sent to Wakde 
to mop up a few Japanese snipers who were 
hindering work on the airdromes. The com- 
pany returned to the mainland on 26 May, 
after killing 8 Japanese. 

At 1500 on 19 May, even before the 
island was declared secure, the 836th Engi- 
neer Aviation Battalion had begun repairs 
on the western end of the Wakde airdrome 
while it was still subject to occasional enemy 



fire. The work was resumed the next day 
and, despite one or two minor interruptions 
from Japanese rifle fire, the strip was opera- 
tional by noon on 21 May. The first planes 
landed on the island that afternoon, two 
days ahead of schedule. Within a few more 
days the Wakde strip was sufficiently re- 
paired and enlarged to furnish the needed 
base from which bombers could support the 
Biak operation on 27 May and the Central 
Pacific's advance to the Marianas in mid- 
June. Wakde-based fighters were to provide 
close support for continuing operations on 
the mainland opposite that island. 

The final count of Japanese casualties on 
Wakde Island was 759 killed and 4 cap- 
tured. An additional 50 or more of the en- 
emy had been killed on the mainland 
through 20 May. In action on Wakde the 
U. S. Army lost 40 men killed or died of 
wounds and 107 wounded. Total American 
casualties, including naval, on Wakde, In- 
soemanai, Liki, Niroemoar, and the neigh- 
boring mainland through 20 May were 43 
killed and 139 wounded. During the same 
period the Japanese lost at least 800 men. 
The Tornado Task Force had secured an 
extremely valuable stepping stone on the 
road back to the Philippines at a low cost in 
men and materiel.* 8 



<8 USN casualties included in the foregoing figures 
are for 18 May only. Apparently, the only naval 
losses for the entire period 17-20 May were incurred 
on the 18th. 



CHAPTER X 



Lone Tree Hill: The Initial Attacks 



The Japanese at W akde-Sarmi 

Japanese Plans for Western New 
Guinea, April-May 1944 

When in late 1943 and early 1944 the 
Japanese had withdrawn their strategic 
main line of resistance westward to Wakde— 
Sarmi, Lt. Gen. Fusataro Teshima's 2d 
Army had been ordered to hold that area 
at all costs, employing for this purpose the 
36th Division, less the 222d Infantry on 
Biak Island. But with the loss of Hollandia 
in April, Wakde-Sarmi had become an ex- 
posed salient without protection from the 
east, north, or south. The next base west- 
ward was 200-mile-distant Biak Island, only 
partially developed. With the Wakde-Sarmi 
area no longer defensible, Imperial General 
Headquarters on 2 May informed the 2d 
Area Army that the strategic main line of 
resistance in the New Guinea area was to be 
withdrawn to the line Biak-Manokwari. 1 

On 2 May it probably appeared to Im- 
perial General Headquarters that this new 
line might be held for some time. The 32d 
and 35th Divisions (the latter minus the 
219th Infantry, reinforced, sent to the 
Palaus) had been dispatched from China to 
western New Guinea in mid-April and, at 



1 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. Ill — 
13; Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 53—55; Naval Opns 
in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 2-3. 



the time of their sailing, it seemed probable 
that they had a good chance to arrive safely 
at their destinations. But from the begin- 
ning, bad luck dogged the path of the Take- 
ichi Convoy, as the two-division lift was 
called. One regimental combat team of the 
32d Division was practically wiped out when 
the ship carrying it was sunk in the South 
China Sea by an American submarine on 26 
April. The remaining ships stopped at 
Manila, in the Philippines, before sailing 
on for Halmahera and western New Guinea. 

The Takeichi Convoy suffered further 
disasters on 6 May, when three more ships 
were sunk by American submarines off Ma- 
nado in the Celebes. These losses left the 32d 
Division with but two infantry regiments 
( one of which lacked a battalion ) and about 
one half its normal artillery. The 35th Divi- 
sion (exclusive of the units in the Palaus) 
was reduced to four complete infantry bat- 
talions and little more than a single battery 
of division artillery. 2 

After the Takeichi Convoy disasters, Lt. 
Gen. Korechika Anami, commanding the 
2d Area Army, recommended a whole new 

2 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 111- 
13; Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 53—55; Naval Opns 
in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 3-4; The 
Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee [JANAG], 
Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses Dur- 
ing World War II By All Causes (Washington, 
1947), pp. 58-59; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 58, 
13 Sep 44, copy G-2 DofA files; Kawakami Com- 
ments. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



233 



series of redispositions for western New 
Guinea. He suggested that the 219th Infan- 
try be brought from the Palaus to Biak and 
that another regiment of the 35th Division 
be dispatched from Halmahera, where its 
remnants had finally landed, to New 
Guinea. General Anami also had some plan 
to send one regiment of the 32d Division to 
Biak to reinforce the 222d Infantry or at 
least to move the division to the Vogelkop 
Peninsula. He also proposed that the 2d 
Amphibious Brigade, a recently organized 
unit trained for small-boat transportation 
and amphibious warfare, be moved from 
the Philippines to Manokwari or Biak. 

General Anami's plans were overambi- 
tious, for, as Imperial General Headquarters 
well knew, shipping simply was not avail- 
able to undertake all the redispositions he 
had suggested. Moreover, Imperial General 
Headquarters was convinced that it would 
be foolhardy to risk any large ships forward 
of Sorong. The high command therefore 
approved only the concentration of the 35 th 
Division at Sorong, which was accomplished 
by the end of May. Higher headquarters 
also decided to keep the 32d Division at 
Halmahera and reorganize it there. 3 

Meanwhile, Allied Air Forces bombers 
and long-range fighters, based on the newly 
won Hollandia fields, had begun to appear 
over Wakde, Sarmi, Biak, Noemfoor, and 
Manokwari in such large numbers that the 
Japanese found it next to impossible to use 
those bases for air operations or supply 
storage. Even Sorong, the Japanese knew 
full well, was within range of Allied attack 
bombers from Hollandia. These Allied air 
operations, coupled with increasing Allied 
submarine activity, such as that which had 

3 Hist of Army Section, Imperial CHQ, pp. 111- 
13, 120-23; The Palau Opns, pp. 57-61; Hist of 
2d Area Army, pp. 53—55; Kawakami Comments. 



caused the 6 May disaster to the Takeichi 
Convoy in waters which had previously been 
relatively safe for Japanese shipping, con- 
vinced Imperial General Headquarters that 
another strategic withdrawal was necessary. 
Accordingly, on 9 May, the high command 
informed the 2d Area Army that a new stra- 
tegic main line of resistance was to be set 
up along the line Sorong-Halmahera. The 
new line represented a strategic withdrawal 
of nearly 600 miles from the Wakde-Sarmi 
area since March. 

Biak and Manokwari, forward of the new 
line, were to be held as long as possible as an 
outpost line of resistance. But the Wakde- 
Sarmi area forces were for all practical pur- 
poses written off as a loss and instructed to 
hold out as best they could. This high com- 
mand attitude duplicated that taken earlier 
in the year when the Japanese had recog- 
nized that the 18th Army was irredeemably 
lost. 4 

The Japanese garrison at Wakde-Sarmi 
was commanded by Lt. Gen. Hachiro Ta- 
gami, 5 who was also the commander of the 
36th Division. That division had begun 
arriving in western New Guinea from North 
China in December 1943, and by mid- Jan- 
uary 1944 the 223d and 224th Infantry 
Regiments (less small detachments left at 
Manokwari or sent inland) had closed at 
Wakde-Sarmi and the 222d Infantry had 
reached Biak Island. In addition to the 
organic units of the 36th Division, General 
Tagami had under his command in the 
Sarmi area some antiaircraft units and mis- 



' Hist of 2d Area Army, pp. 55-58 ; Hist of South- 
ern Area Army, pp. 61—64; Hist of Army Section, 
Imperial GHQ, pp. 111-13. 

3 The Japanese characters of the general's family 
name can also be read as Tanoue or Tanouye, in 
which readings it appears in some translated docu- 
ments. The reading used in this volume is the most 
common. 



234 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



cellaneous airdrome engineer, medical, and 
other service organizations, including men 
of naval guard detachments. The entire 
force in the Sarmi area was designated the 
Yuki Group. 6 

Dispositions of the Yuki Group 

It will be recalled that when the Allies 
had landed at Hollandia, the 2d Army had 
sent the Matsuyama Force (comprising the 
headquarters and the 2d and 3d Battalions 
(less two rifle companies) of the 224th In- 
fantry and a battalion of 36th Division 
mountain artillery ) toward Hollandia from 
Sarmi. 7 This group, commanded by Col. 
Soemon Matsuyama, the commanding offi- 
cer of the 224th Infantry, was at Armopa, 
about half-way between Sarmi and Hol- 
landia, when the Allies landed on the main- 
land opposite Wakde Island on 1 7 May. 
The 51st Field Road Construction Unit, 
which had been building roads and bridges 
for the Matsuyama Force, was also in the 
Armopa area. 

Almost coincident with the departure of 
the Matsuyama Force for Hollandia, Gen- 
eral Tagami divided the W akde-Sarmi area 



"Opns of Yuki Group, p. 13; Hist of 2d Area 
Army, pp. 26-27; Japanese Studies in WW II, 32, 
2d Army Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 
1-2, copy in OCMH files. Yuki (literally: Snow) 
Group was apparently a code name for both the 36th 
Division and the whole of General Tagami's com- 
mand in the Sarmi area. It is not clear whether Gen- 
eral Tagami retained any control of the 222 d In- 
fantry on Biak, but the probability is that the Biak 
force operated directly under 2d Army command. 

7 Information in this and the following subsection 
is from: Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 12—15 and Map 
3 ; Miscellaneous orders of the 36th Division and 
224th Infantry, dated late Apr and early May 44, 
as translated in Alamo Force G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 
Jul 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; Hist of 2d Area 
Army, pp. 51-53, 57-59; Hist of Southern Area 
Army, pp. 61-64; 2d Army Opns, pp. 1-6 ; 2d Army 
Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 10—26. 



into three defense sectors. (See Map 9.) 
The Right Sector Force was responsible for 
Wakde Island and for thirteen miles of 
coast line from Tementoe Creek west to the 
Woske River. Besides the Wakde Island 
garrison, the Right Sector Force comprised 
300 men of the 3d Battalion, 224th Infan- 
try, under a Captain Saito, the 16th Field 
Airdrome Construction Unit, and a five- 
gun battery of 75-mm. mountain artillery. 
It was commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel 
Kato, also the commander of the airdrome 
engineers, and numbered (not counting the 
troops on Wakde) about 1,200 men. 8 The 
bulk of the 1st Battalion, 224th Infantry, 
was also in the same area, but it was appar- 
ently engaged in moving supplies forward 
to the Matsuyama Force and was not under 
Colonel Kato's control. 

West of the Woske River was the area of 
the Central Sector Force, under Col. Nao- 
yasu Yoshino, also commanding officer of 
the 223d Infantry, The sector ran from the 
Woske west about four and a half miles to 
Sawar Creek and included within its bound- 
aries Sawar Drome. The principal combat 
forces comprised the 223d Infantry, less the 
2d Battalion and the 2d Company of the 
1st Battalion. Other units were a battery of 
three 75-mm. mountain artillery guns, the 
103d Field Airdrome Construction Unit, 
some antiaircraft organizations, and pos- 
sibly a platoon of light tanks. 9 The strength 
of the Central Sector Force was approxi- 
mately 2,500 men. 

The Left Sector Force, also about 2,500 
men strong, was responsible for a defense 



1 Strength figures in this and the following subsec- 
tion are the author's estimates, based upon conflict- 
ing and incomplete sources. 

s The existence of this tank platoon is open to 
question, because it is known that the 36th Division's 
tank company was on Biak and only one tank was 
ever found in the Sarmi area. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



235 



sector extending westward from Sawar 
Creek six and a half miles to Tevar Creek, 
which empties into the sea immediately west 
of Sarmi. Troops consisted of the 2d Bat- 
talion, 223d Infantry (less two companies 
but with a company of the 1st Battalion at- 
tached), most of a battalion of 75-mm. 
mountain guns, a number of engineer units, 
and some antiaircraft artillery. The com- 
mander was Maj. Gen. Shigeru Yamada, 
also the commander of the 4th Engineer 
Group, a headquarters which controlled the 
activities of many engineer and other service 
units in the area. The commander of the 
223d Infantry's battalion was Capt. Yoshio 
Toganae. 

In addition to the three defensive sectors 
and the Matsuyama Force, there were a 
number of detached units operating under 
the Yuki Group. Some of these units pa- 
trolled the coast far west of Sarmi, while 
others were stationed at points deep inland. 
Service troops not specifically assigned to 
the defensive sectors were concentrated for 
the most part near Sarmi or bivouacked 
along the banks of the Orai River, which 
entered the ocean about two miles east of 
Sarmi. 

The total Japanese troop strength in the 
Sarmi area, including the temporarily ab- 
sent Matsuyama Force, was about 11,000 
men. Of these, a little more than half were 
trained and effective combat troops. The 
most accurate Allied estimates made prior 
to 17 May accounted for a total of 6,500 
Japanese, of whom about 4,000 were 
thought to be combat troops. 10 



10 Allied figures are from Alamo Force FO 16, 30 
Apr 44; TTF FO 1, 12 May 44. The Allied figures 
perforce included the Matsuyama Force since the 
Allies did not learn until after 1 7 May that any large 
body of Japanese troops had been dispatched from 
the Sarmi area toward Hollandia. 



Reactions to the Allied Landings 

After the Allied landings, the first action 
taken by General Tagami was to instruct 
the Matsuyama Force to retrace its steps to 
Sarmi. This order was issued on 17 May, 
but for the next two days the general took 
no other decisive steps. He had lost about 
250 men killed and a like number wounded 
before 17 May as a result of Allied air ac- 
tion. Operations on the 17th had caused 
many more casualties and had created a 
great deal of confusion. On that day, troops 
of the Right Sector Force in the Toem- 
Arare area fled beyond the Tor River and 
Tementoe Creek. On a hill near Maffin 
Drome, General Tagami could but sit help- 
lessly by and watch as his 800-man garrison 
on Wakde Island was annihilated. Con- 
tinued Allied air and naval bombardments 
added to his casualties, and the Yuki Group 
probably lost over 1,000 men from the 17 th 
through the 20th of May. General Tagami's 
food and ammunition supply, already low, 
was being destroyed by Allied naval and air 
operations and by such shore-based artil- 
lery fire as the Tornado Task Force was 
able to bring to bear on his storage dumps. 
His situation was anything but enviable. On 
19 May the 2d Army ordered him to attack. 

General Tagami planned a pincers move- 
ment. The Matsuyama Force was ordered 
to concentrate at Masi-masi, a coastal vil- 
lage about four and a half miles east of 
Tementoe Creek, and to prepare to attack 
the Allied positions at Toem. On the west 
flank, the Central Sector Force was reorgan- 
ized. The service troops were placed under 
the command of a Captain Fujimura while 
the combat elements (two battalions of the 
223d Infantry with supporting artillery) 
were assigned to Colonel Yoshino for offen- 
sive operations. The new combat organiza- 



236 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tion, designated the Yoshino Force, was to 
cross the Tor at the confluence of that river 
and the Foein (a point about four miles 
upstream) during the night of 22-23 May. 
From the ford, the force was to attack the 
Toem area from the south and southwest. 
Simultaneously, the Matsuyama Force was 
to attack from the east. The double envel- 
opment was set for the night of 25-26 May. 

While the two arms of the pincers were 
moving into position, the reorganizing Right 
Sector Force assembled along the west bank 
of the Tor River to prevent Allied advances 
toward the Maffin and Sawar airdromes. 
The rest of the combat troops and armed 
service personnel that General Tagami was 
able to muster he organized as a new battle 
force to which he gave the confusing title 
Yuki Group, a name which by now appar- 
ently bore three connotations — the new 
force, the entire garrison of the Sarmi area, 
and the 36th Division. The nucleus of the 
new Yuki Group was probably the 2d Battal- 
ion, 223d Infantry? 1 which was reinforced 
by parts of various units from the Left and 
Central Sector Forces. The Yuki Group was 
to move into the hills south and southeast of 
Maffin Drome to defend that area in co- 
operation with the Right Sector Force, to 
which was also temporarily attached the 1st 
Battalion, 224th Infantry. Within a few days 
the Tornado Task Force was to be put on 
the defensive by the Yoshino and Matsu- 
yama Forces. But before that happened, one 
part of the task force was to encounter the 
well-prepared and skillfully manned de- 

11 There is some confusion as to whether the 2d 
Battalion, 223d Infantry, was initially assigned to the 
new Yuki Group or to the Yoshino Force. In any case 
it did not join the Yoshino Force during the offen- 
sive phase of Japanese operations in the Sarmi area. 
The name Central Sector Force was retained by 
Captain Fujimura's organization of service troops. 



fenses of the new Yuki Group and the Right 
Sector Force. 

The 158th Infantry Against Lone Tree Hill 

As they awaited the outcome of the battle 
for Wakde Island, Tornado Task Force 
units on the mainland had restricted combat 
operations to patrolling. Engineers had con- 
tinued construction and road improvement, 
and the D plus 1 convoy had arrived and 
had been unloaded without incident. The 
2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, sent patrols 
across Tementoe Creek on the east flank 
without finding any signs of organized 
enemy units. The 3d Battalion, on the west 
flank, was ready to move across the Tor 
River to expand the initial beachhead and 
discover enemy intentions. 

Preliminaries to a Mainland 
Campaign 

Since there was a possibility that strong 
enemy forces might oppose an advance west 
of the Tor, General Doe, who did not be- 
lieve it prudent to commit his small task 
force to more than one offensive at a time, 
postponed movement across the Tor until 
the capture of Wakde Island was assured. 
Late on the afternoon of 18 May, when it 
appeared to the task force commander that 
the situation on Wakde was well in hand, 
he gave the 3d Battalion permission to push 
patrols to the west side of the river, but be- 
fore dark there was only time for one platoon 
to cross. That unit established a bridgehead 
on the west bank in preparation for a cross- 
ing by the rest of the battalion. 12 

On the 19th, 3d Battalion patrols found 
evidence that the Japanese intended to hold 

« TTF G-3 Jnl, 6-25 May 44; 163d Inf Jnl, 13- 
30 May 44. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



237 



the ground west of the river. Two organized 
and well-armed enemy patrols were en- 
countered near Maffin No. 1, a native vil- 
lage on the beach about 3,000 yards beyond 
the Tor^ and another enemy patrol was 
located at Maffin No. 2, a hamlet about 
2,500 yards upstream. The next day a Japa- 
nese infantry force supported by mortars 
and machine guns launched a series of small 
attacks against the 3d Battalion's bridge- 
head but failed to dislodge the Company I 
platoon which was holding the river cross- 
ing. Intermittent Japanese machine gun and 
mortar fire continued throughout the 20th, 
and three rifle platoons of Company K were 
sent across the river to relieve the Company 
I unit. There was a threat of more serious 
fighting. Alamo Force, on the basis of new, 
special intelligence, radioed to the Tornado 
Task Force that the Japanese were planning 
a major counterattack against the Toem- 
Arare beachhead. 13 

The night of 20-21 May passed quietly, 
but about midmorning on the 21st the 3d 
Battalion's positions at the mouth of the Tor 
were bombarded by large-caliber mortar or 
high-angle artillery fire. The battalion was 
alerted to expect an enemy attack, but no 
assault materialized. The remainder of the 
day was therefore spent in strengthening de- 
fenses, while at the Arare area the time was 
devoted to reorganizing and re-equipping 
the various 163d Infantry units which had 
by now returned to the mainland from 
Wakde, Insoemanai, Liki, and Niroemoar 
Islands. 14 



13 Ibid.; Rad, Alamo to TTF, WF-3246, 20 May 
44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 16-22 May 44. 

14 The Provisional Groupment on Insoemanai had 
been disbanded on 19 May and its troops either re- 
turned to the mainland or sent to Wakde. Liki and 
Niroemoar had been captured according to plan by 
Companies E and I on 19 May. The two companies 
had been transported to the objectives by two APD's 
and two LCT's, protected by DD's. The islands 



Early on the morning of 2 1 May the con- 
voy bearing the 158th Regimental Combat 
Team, Alamo Force Reserve, for the 
Wakde-Biak operation arrived off Toem. 16 
The 158th Infantry went into bivouac near 
Arare, while the combat team's 147th Field 
Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzers) 
quickly set up its guns near the same village 
to reinforce the 191st Field Artillery Group's 
fire on targets west and south of the bridge- 
head across the Tor River. 16 

Almost coincident with the arrival of the 
158th Regimental Combat Team, the mis- 
sion of the Tornado Task Force was en- 
larged. Originally the task force had been 
charged only with the seizure of Wakde Is- 
land and the immediately adjacent main- 
land area. These tasks had been accom- 
plished by 22 May, but on the same date 
General Krueger changed the mission and 
assigned a new one which was reminiscent 
of the original concept of the Wakde-Sarmi 
operation. General Krueger now felt that 
Wakde Island would not be secure until 
more information concerning Japanese in- 
tentions could be obtained. Furthermore, he 
believed that the arrival of the 158th Regi- 
mental Combat Team would allow the task 
force to mount an offensive which would 
break up the known Japanese attack plans 
and would place the enemy on the defensive. 



proved to be unoccupied by the Japanese and the 
Fifth Air Force radar detachments were immediately 
set up. The only casualty was the native chieftain 
of Liki, who was wounded by the preassault naval 
bombardment. Detachments of the 163d Infantry 
were left on both islands to protect the radar instal- 
lations. TTF G-3 Jnl, 6-25 May 44; 163d Inf Jnl, 
13-30 May 44. 

I! The unit reached the area a day ahead of sched- 
ule, thereby causing some confusion. The beaches 
were not ready to receive the troops and supplies, 
and some of the ships, without awaiting instructions 
from task force headquarters, started unloading over 

the wrong beaches. 

,, TTF G _ 3 Jnl; 6 _ 25 May 44 



238 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Accordingly, he ordered the Tornado Task 
Force, to institute a vigorous overland drive 
toward Sarmi, sixteen miles west of the Tor 
River." 

This decision, based upon the scanty, in- 
complete information concerning Japanese 
strength and dispositions available to Gen- 
eral Krueger at the time, was destined to 
precipitate a protracted and bitter fight. 
The Japanese had no intention of abandon- 
ing Sarmi and the two airstrips between the 
town and the Tor without a desperate strug- 
gle. The fighting was not, however, to be 
carried out under the direction of General 
Doe or by the 163d Regimental Combat 
Team. The task force commander decided 
to use the 158th Infantry to start the west- 
ward drive which Alamo Force had or- 
dered, and elements of the recently arrived 
regiment began relieving the 3d Battalion, 
163d Infantry, at the mouth of the Tor 
River on 23 May. 

Meanwhile the 41st Division, scheduled 
to invade Biak Island on 27 May, had found 
that it needed another general officer for 
that operation. General Doe, whose admin- 
istrative assignment was assistant com- 
mander of the 41st Division, was the logical 
choice to fill the division's command re- 
quirement. Accordingly, on 25 May, he left 
the Wakde area and his place as commander 
of the Tornado Task Force was taken by 
Brig. Gen. Edwin D. Patrick. 18 

The 158th Regimental Combat Team 
was organized on 1 1 May 1944 at Finsch- 



11 TTF G-3 Jnl and Jnl file, 6-25 May 44; Rad, 
Alamo to TTF, WF-3772, 22 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 18-22 May 44; Ltr, Gen 
Krueger to Gen Ward, 2 Jan 51, no sub, in OCMH 
files. 

"TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 44, 
p. 8; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 
44, p. 1 ; Rad, Alamo to TTF, WF-3972, 24 May 
44, and Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo Adv Hq, 



hafen in Australian New Guinea. At that 
time its component parts were the 158th 
Infantry Regiment, the 147th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion, the 506th Medical Collect- 
ing Company, and the 1st Platoon, 637th 
Medical Clearing Company. Other units 
were assigned to the combat team from time 
to time during its combat operations. In the 
Wakde-Sarmi area the combat team com- 
mander was General Patrick and the com- 
mander of the 158th Infantry was initially 
Col. J. Prugh Herndon. 1 * 

West to the Tirfoam River 

On the morning of 23 May Company L, 
158th Infantry, began advancing westward 
from the Tor River bridgehead. (Map 11) 
Plans for the day were to complete the relief 
of the 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, extend 
the bridgehead to the west, and establish a 
road block at Maffin No. 1 . The remainder 
of the 3d Battalion, 158th Infantry, was to 
cross the Tor during the day and follow 
Company L to Maffin No. 1 . At that village 
the battalion was to assemble and prepare 
to attack westward toward Sarmi at daylight 
on 24 May. This attack was to be supported 
by the remainder of the 158th Infantry, 
which was scheduled to move across the Tor 
on the 24th and 25th. 20 

During the 23d the advance of Company 
L met increasingly strong resistance. 21 Japa- 



WF-4062, 24 May 44, both in Alamo G-3 Jnl, 
Wakde-Biak, 23-24 May 44. There are five separate 
reports bearing the title Tornado Task Force, each 
dated according to the length of tenure of various 
units as task force headquarters. 

" 158th RGT Opns Rpt Sarmi- Wakde, 11 May- 
21 Jun 44, pp. 1-3. 

20 158th Inf FO 2, 23 May 44, in 158th Inf Jnl, 
9 May-21 Jun 44. 

31 Unless otherwise indicated, information in the 
rest of this subsection is from: 158th Inf Jnl and 
Jnl files, 9 May-21 Jun 44; TTF G-3 Jnl, 6-25 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



239 



nese defenses were centered around three 
small, brush-bordered lakes near the beach 
about 1,800 yards west of the Tor. The rest 
of the 3d Battalion, 158th Infantry, across 
the Tor before 1130, quickly moved for- 
ward to assist Company L, which had been 
pinned down along the main coastal track 
west of the lakes by Japanese machine gun 
and rifle fire. Company K pushed up to the 
left flank of Company L, while Company I 
moved toward L's rear. With the aid of mor- 
tar fire from the 81-mm. weapons of Com- 
pany M, Companies K and L were able to 
push gradually forward during the after- 
noon, advancing on a front about 400 yards 
wide. 

Finding that the attack was not progress- 
ing as rapidly as he had expected, Colonel 
Herndon ordered his 1st Battalion across the 
Tor. The 1st Battalion did not start moving 
until 1400 and could not get far enough 
forward to join the attack before dark. 
Tanks would probably have been of great 
help to the 3d Battalion, but by the time 
the mediums of the 1st Platoon, 603d Tank 
Company, moved across the Tor, the for- 
ward infantry troops had already halted for 
the night. 

Companies L and K dug in for the night 
across the main coastal track at a point 
about 400 yards east of Maffin No. 1. Here 
the road swung away from the beach, and 
Company L extended the perimeter about 
500 yards north to the shore of Maffin Bay. 
Company I was in position along the road 
east of Companies L and K. The 1st Bat- 
talion bivouacked for the night on the west 
bank of the Tor at the river's mouth. The 

May 44; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 17-25 May 
44, pp. 7-9 ; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May- 
12 Jim 44, pp. 1-6; 158th RCT Opns Rpt Sarmi- 
Wakde, 1 1 May-21 Jun 44, pp. 2-4; Ltr, Col Hern- 
don to Gen Ward, 23 Dec 50, no sub, in OGMH 
files. 



3d Battalion had lost 8 men killed, 12 
wounded, and 1 missing during the day, 
while 6 Japanese had been killed and 1 cap- 
tured. Plans for the morrow were to have 
the battalion continue the attack westward. 

Shortly after 0700 on the 24th, the 
81-mm. mortars of Company M laid down 
a brief concentration in front of Companies 
K and L, and at 0715 the 147th and 218th 
Field Artillery Battalions began a fifteen- 
minute support bombardment. When a few 
artillery shells fell on Company L, the 3d 
Battalion commander thought that his own 
artillery was falling short, and he had the 
fire stopped quickly. Actually, this was Jap- 
anese artillery fire. The infantry unit was 
mistaking Japanese artillery for its own, a 
failing not uncommon with troops not previ- 
ously subjected to enemy artillery fire. De- 
spite the lack of extended artillery support, 
Companies K and L moved out as planned 
at 0730. Company L, on the right, advanced 
along the beach encountering only scattered 
rifle fire but Company K, on the main road, 
had hardly started when Japanese machine 
gun and rifle fire from concealed positions 
in a wooded area on the left front halted its 
advance. Unable to gain any ground, Com- 
pany K called for tank support. Two tanks, 
together with a flame-thrower detachment 
from Company B of the 27th Engineers, 
arrived at Company K's lines about 1000. 
With the flame throwers and tanks blasting 
the way, the infantrymen overran the Jap- 
anese defenses, killing ten of the enemy and 
capturing two machine guns. The remainder 
of the Japanese force, probably originally 
some forty men strong, disappeared into the 
jungle south of the road, whence scattered 
rifle fire continued to harass Company K. 

Company L reached the outskirts of Maf- 
fin No. 1 about 1400. The movement had 
been slow, not as a result of Japanese oppo- 



242 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sition but because the battalion commander 
did not believe it prudent for Company L 
to advance far beyond Company K. Deploy- 
ing to find a crossing over the Tirfoam River, 
just west of Maftin No. 1, Company L was 
subjected to intense machine gun fire from 
enemy positions on the west bank. The com- 
pany then moved southwest away from the 
beach toward the main road and up the 
Tirfoam. This maneuver was greeted with 
new outbursts of machine gun fire from Jap- 
anese positions on both sides of the river. 
The company commander called for tajik 
support, and the 1st Platoon, 603d Tank 
Company, sent four of its mediums forward. 

As the tanks moved into position elements 
of the Right Sector Force, comprising Cap- 
tain Saito's men of the 3d Battalion, 224tk 
Infantry, and a company of the 223d Infan- 
try, charged out of the jungle. The Japanese 
were under Colonel Kato, Right Sector 
Force commander, who was killed as he per- 
sonally led a small detachment against the 
American tanks. The enemy was quickly 
thrown back with heavy losses by the com- 
bined fire of the four tanks and Company 
L's riflemen and machine gunners. How- 
ever, under cover of their infantry attack, 
the Japanese had dragged a 37-mm. anti- 
tank gun forward out of the jungle. As the 
enemy infantrymen withdrew to the south- 
west after the death of Colonel Kato, the 
antitank gun opened fire. It was soon de- 
stroyed and its crew killed, but not before 
three of the American tanks had been so 
damaged that they had to be withdrawn for 
repairs. 22 

The separate actions of Companies L and 

53 Japanese information here and in the rest of 
this subsection is from Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 15- 
16; and 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), 
pp. 20-22. 



K during the morning had created a gap 
between those two units, and the battalion 
commander sent Company I forward to fill 
the void. The reinforcing company moved 
west along the road to Company K's right 
rear. The latter had been unable to advance 
because of continued enemy fire from its left 
flank, and, therefore, shortly after 1200, 
Colonel Herndon ordered the 1st Battalion 
forward. The 1st was to bypass opposition 
on Company K's left by a deep envelop- 
ment to the south across the Tirfoam. Once 
beyond the river the battalion was to push 
northwest to a jetty which projected into 
Maffin Bay about 600 yards west of the Tir- 
foam's mouth. 

Company A started the flanking maneu- 
ver about 1330 but was soon halted by ma- 
chine gun and rifle fire from dense jungle 
south of the main road. Company C was 
ordered to reinforce Company A. However, 
by the time Company C got into position to 
continue the attack, darkness was approach- 
ing and the battalion commander stopped 
the flanking maneuver for the night. Mean- 
while, Company K, upon the arrival of 
Company A at its left flank, had extended its 
right front to Maffin No. 1, establishing 
contact there with Companies L and I. 
Company L had sent patrols across the Tir- 
foam late in the afternoon, but these parties 
were withdrawn before dark and the com- 
pany began setting up night defenses about 
200 yards east of the river. 

For the night Company L's right flank 
rested on the beach, and the unit's left was 
tied into Company l's perimeter farther in- 
land. To the left rear of Company I was 
Company K, with its lines stretching across 
the coastal track. Companies A and C were 
south of the road on K's left. Company B 
had moved forward late in the day to rein- 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



243 



force the 3d Battalion's three rifle companies 
and was apparently located for the night 
near Companies I and L. 

Casualties during the day had been 
heavy — 28 men were killed and 75 wound- 
ed. Many others, including the commander 
of Company I, had dropped from heat ex- 
haustion and had to be evacuated. The offi- 
cer strength of Company I was reduced to 
two. Japanese casualties were undoubtedly 
higher, especially as a result of the Right Sec- 
tor Force's suicidal attacks against the four 
American tanks. Colonel Kato's place as 
Right Sector Force commander was taken 
by Maj. Yasake Matsuoka, formerly a bat- 
talion commander of the 233d Infantry, 
who was ordered to continue to defend the 
approaches to Maffin Strip. 

The sacrifices of the Right Sector Force 
had not been in vain. Under cover of the 
unit's holding action the Yoshino Force con- 
tinued its wide envelopment south of the 
158th Infantry toward Toem and Arare, a 
maneuver of* which the Tornado Task 
Force was as yet unaware. At the same time 
the delaying action of the Right Sector Force 
gave the Yuki Group ample time to move 
into the hills south and east of Maffin Strip. 
The 158th Infantry, ordered to continue the 
advance on the 25 th, was soon to engage the 
Yuki Group and the remnants of the Right 
Sector Force, which had withdrawn south 
into the jungle and west into hills beyond 
the Tirfoam. 

Discovering the Japanese Defenses 

Action on the 25th started with the with- 
drawal of the 158th Infantry's forward units 
to a point 350 yards east of the Tirfoam, 
while artillery and mortar concentrations 
were laid on the banks of the river and on 
suspected enemy defenses west of the 



stream. 23 Under cover of these fires the 1st 
Battalion relieved the 3d, and Company E 
was sent forward to reinforce the left of the 
1st Battalion. The 3d Battalion reverted to 
regimental reserve. 

Patrols of the 1st Battalion moved out 
about 0830, and the main body followed 
fifteen minutes later. The artillery and mor- 
tar fire had been effective. Japanese defenses 
east of the Tirfoam, strongly held the previ- 
ous day, were found to be destroyed or aban- 
doned. With only scattered rifle fire opposing 
its movement, the 1st Battalion reached its 
initial objective — a bridge which crossed the 
Tirfoam about 200 yards inland — at 0915. 
Patrols moved north and south along the 
east bank, dispersing enemy stragglers and 
securing Maffin No. 1. At 0930 Colonel 
Herndon decided to send the battalion 
across the river. The next objective was the 
jetty 600 yards to the west. 

Preparatory to movement across the Tir- 
foam, the 1st Battalion's machine guns and 
60-mm. mortars (the latter attempting to 
get tree bursts) sprayed a heavily wooded 
area just west of the bridge. Patrols crossing 
the river shortly after 0930 reported only 
sporadic rifle fire which did not seem to 
represent an organized defense, and Com- 
panies B and C crossed the bridge without 
incident about 1115. Company E followed 
and deployed on the left flank of the 1st Bat- 
talion. By noon Company B had reached the 
jetty. There the 1st Battalion paused to 

" Unless otherwise indicated this and the follow- 
ing subsections are based on: TTF Opns Rpt 
Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 44, pp. 1-4; 158th 
RCT Opns Rpt Sarmi-Wakde, 11 May-21 Jun 44, 
pp. 4-9; 1st Bn 158th Inf Jnl, 11 May-21 Jun 44; 
2d Bn 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; 3d Bn 158th 
Inf Jnl, 12 May-18 Jun 44; TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 
May 44; 158th Inf Jnl and Jnl file, 9 May-21 Jun 
44; Ltr, Herndon to Ward, 23 Dec 50. Enemy info 
is principally from Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 15-16, 
and 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak, p. 22. 



244 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



reorganize and lunch while the 2d Battalion 
crossed the Tirfoam. By 1300 both battal- 
ions had been fed and were ready to push 
onward. Colonel Herndon set the next objec- 
tive as Lone Tree Hill, a terrain feature 
which rose from the flat coastal plain about 
2,000 yards west of the jetty. 

Lone Tree Hill had been named for a 
single tree which was depicted on its crest 
by the map then employed by Tornado 
Task Force. Actually, the hill's coral mass 
was covered with dense rain forest and 
jungle undergrowth. Lone Tree Hill was 
about 175 feet high, 1,200 yards long north 
to south, and 1 , 1 00 yards wide east to west. 
The north side dropped steeply to a rocky 
shore on Maffin Bay. The hill's eastern slope 
was fronted by a short, violently twisting 
stream which was promptly dubbed the 
"Snaky River" by the 158th Infantry. The 
main road curved away from the beach to 
pass south of ' the Snaky River and Lone 
Tree Hill through a narrow defile. The 
southern side of this defile was formed by 
two noses of Mt. Saksin, a terrain feature 
about 100 feet higher than Lone Tree Hill. 
The more westerly of these noses was named 
"Hill 225" after its height in feet. No name 
was given to the eastern ridge line, which 
pointed toward Lone Tree Hill from the 
southeast. There was a small native village 
at the eastern entrance to the defile and an- 
other at the pass's western outlet. 24 

Mt. Saksin was a name given to an in- 
definitely oudined hill mass which forms the 
northern extremity of the Irier Mountains, 
extending inland from the coast at Lone 
Tree Hill. The name Saksin was specifically 
applied to a prominent peak about 2,000 

24 The past tense is used in this paragraph because 
the entire cast of the terrain in the Lone Tree Hill 
area was changed during the next two months by 
continuous artillery and air bombardment. 



yards due south of Lone Tree. On or about 
23 May General Tagami had moved his 
headquarters into the Mt. Saksin area, ap- 
parently on the southwest side of the central 
peak. As the 158th Infantry pushed forward 
on the 24th, elements of the Yuki Group and 
Right Sector Force moved onto Hill 225 and 
Lone Tree Hill. On these two terrain fea- 
tures the Japanese began constructing hasty 
defensive positions. These, together with the 
natural terrain barriers in the area, effec- 
tively guarded the land approaches to Maf- 
fin Strip, which lay less than 1,000 yards 
west of Lone Tree Hill. 25 A sea approach 
was at least temporarily out of the question, 
since the Tornado Task Force did not have 
sufficient landing craft to execute and sup- 
port such a maneuver. Finally, it was not 
considered probable at task force headquar- 
ters that the Japanese land defenses of the 
Maffin Strip area would be strongly held. 
On the other hand, Colonel Herndon, as the 
result of patrol reports, did believe that a 
large Japanese force might be on Hill 225 
or Mt. Saksin's eastern nose. 

About 1500 on 25 May, Companies B 
and C had reached a point on the main road 
a few yards below the southernmost bend of 
the Snaky River. There, enemy machine 
gun fire from the native village at the eastern 
entrance to the defile between Lone Tree 
Hill and the two noses of Mt. Saksin halted 
the advance. As the forward troops deployed 
to find cover from the Japanese fire, they 
were subjected to an intermittent artillery 
bombardment, which the battalion thought 
was coming from Tornado Task Force 
weapons emplaced east of the Tor River; 



M In addition to the Yuki Group and 2d Army 
sources, the foregoing enemy information is derived 
from operation orders of the 36th Div and 223d 
Inf, Apr-May 44, as translated in Alamo Force, 
G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 44. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



245 



but no American artillery unit was placing 
fire within 1,000 yards of the 1st Battalion, 
158th Infantry, at the time. 26 For a second 
time part of the regiment was mistaking 
Japanese artillery fire for its own. 

General Patrick, who had succeeded to 
the command of the Tornado Task Force 
during the morning, was informed of the 
opposition encountered by the 1st Battalion. 
He ordered the advance stopped for the 
night and instructed the 158th Infantry to 
remain well east of the Snaky River so that 
American artillery could register on the 
native village and the defile without endan- 
gering the forward troops. Harassed by a 
few artillery shells, which by now had been 
recognized as originating from Japanese 
70-mm. or 75-mm. weapons, the 1st Bat- 
talion pulled back about 500 yards east of 
the Snaky. A perimeter was set up with the 
battalion's left resting on the road and its 
right on the beach. The 2d Battalion estab- 
lished a series of company perimeters back 
along the road to the east. Casualties for the 
day had been 22 men killed and 26 
wounded, almost all in the 1st Battalion, 
while about 50 Japanese had been killed. 

When the attack orders for the day had 
been issued, it had been hoped that the 1st 
Battalion could reach the top of Lone Tree 
Hill before nightfall. Since the unexpectedly 
strong enemy opposition had prevented the 
realization of this hope, plans were made to 
continue the advance westward on the 26th. 
The ultimate objective was the east bank of 
the Woske River, 2,000 yards west of Lone 
Tree Hill, and the intermediate objective 
was the native village at the eastern entrance 

20 As checked in: 147th FA Jnl, 21 May-14 Jun 
44; 191st FA Gp Jnl, 17 May-26 Jun 44; 191st FA 
Gp S-3 Rpts, 18 May-26 Jun 44; 167th FA S-3 
Work Sheets, 25 May 44. The firing records of the 
218th FA are included in the records of the 191st 
FA Gp. 



to the defile. The advance was to be pre- 
ceded by naval shelling of the northern 
slopes of Lone Tree Hill from 0630 to 0700. 
A fifteen-minute artillery preparation was 
also to precede the advance, and the in- 
fantry was to start moving at 0845. 

On the morning of the 26th the naval 
fire started ten minutes late. Two destroyers 
lying offshore shelled the northern slopes of 
Lone Tree Hill and the Maffin Bay area, 
firing on known or suspected enemy defen- 
sive positions and assembly points. After a 
twenty-minute bombardment the two sup- 
port vessels withdrew. Artillery fire did not 
begin until 0830. The time lag gave the 
Japanese ample opportunity to prepare for 
the infantry attack which had been her- 
alded by the destroyer fire. The artillery, 
aiming its shells into the defile and against 
the eastern slopes of Lone Tree Hill, ceased 
firing about 0845. A few moments later the 
1st Battalion, 158th Infantry, Company B 
again leading, started moving westward. 
The infantry's line of departure was nearly 
1 ,000 yards east of the village at the south- 
east foot of Lone Tree Hill, and the advance 
had to be slow because the road ran through 
heavily jungled terrain. The enemy there- 
fore had sufficient time to reoccupy positions 
in the defile and on Lone Tree Hill which 
might have been vacated during the Ameri- 
can artillery barrage. The value of both the 
naval and artillery bombardment had been 
lost. 

Company B moved forward to the point 
at which it had been held up the previous 
afternoon and was again stopped — this time 
by fire from the southeastern corner of Lone 
Tree Hill. Company D's heavy machine 
guns were brought up to spray a densely 
wooded area in front of the point rifle 
platoon. The fire dispersed the Japanese 
riflemen, and Company B moved forward 



246 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



again. Less than 100 yards of ground had 
been gained when the company again en- 
countered machine gun and mortar fire 
originating in the native village. 

Company A, initially off the road to the 
right rear of Company B, turned north to 
the mouth of the Snaky River. One platoon 
crossed at the river mouth at 1 030 but was 
quickly forced back to the east bank by 
Japanese machine gun fire from the rocky 
beach below the north face of Lone Tree 
Hill. Artillery support was called for, sup- 
plied, and proved successful in stopping the 
enemy fire, and about 1 350 all Company A 
crossed the Snaky. Orders were to move 
down the west side of that stream to estab- 
lish contact with Company B and to send 
one platoon up the eastern slope of Lone 
Tree Hill to probe enemy positions. 

Other efforts were meanwhile being made 
to scatter the Japanese opposing Company 
B. Company E (less a platoon which was 
patrolling on Mt. Saksin ) moved up to the 
left flank of Company B and on the south 
side of the main road. The combined efforts 
of the two rifle companies proved insuffi- 
cient to dislodge the Japanese from their 
positions at the eastern entrance to the 
defile, and the enemy fire forced the Ameri- 
can units to seek cover. Company F was 
therefore ordered to pass through B's left 
flank and proceed to Hill 225 to take the 
Japanese positions from the rear. 

Company F's attack could not be started 
before dark and Company A, moving up 
the west side of the Snaky, was unable to 
relieve much of the pressure on Company B. 
Finally, Company A was forced for a second 
time to withdraw to the east bank of the 
river as a result of enemy fire from Lone 
Tree Hill. Tanks would have been of great 
help to Company B, but the bridge over the 
Tirfoam could not bear their weight, and 



the road west of the stream was in such dis- 
repair that tanks probably could not have 
negotiated it. 

Casualties on the 26th had been lighter — 
only 6 men were killed and 10 wounded — 
while an estimated 35 Japanese had been 
killed. To prevent further casualties from be- 
ing inflicted by Japanese patrols which were 
expected to roam around the flanks of the 
forward elements during the night, a semi- 
circular perimeter was established. Com- 
pany B anchored its right flank near the 
eastern edge of the native village and ex- 
tended its lines southwest across the road for 
a distance of about 1 00 yards. Company E 
refused the south flank by stretching the line 
southeast from B's left, 500 yards up the 
slope of Mt. Saksin's eastern nose. Company 
A tied its left into B's right and extended the 
defense northeast about 300 yards from the 
road to a large bend in the Snaky River. The 
remainder of the 1st and 2d Battalions was 
strung out along both sides of the main road 
to the rear of the three forward companies. 

Operations during the day had secured 
less than 1 ,000 yards of ground in a westerly 
direction and about the same distance in- 
land from the beach. However, the 158th 
Infantry had located and probed some of the 
principal Japanese defenses in the area — 
defenses which indicated that the Japanese 
guarding the land approaches to Maffin 
Strip were in greater strength than had been 
expected. Company B had discovered that 
the enemy was firmly dug in along both sides 
of the defile. A platoon of Company A had 
found Lone Tree Hill to be honeycombed 
with enemy defensive positions, especially 
on its northern and northeastern faces. The 
regimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance 
Platoon and a platoon of Company E pa- 
trolled in the vicinity of Mt. Saksin and Hill 
225. The Company E platoon found many 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



247 



deserted Japanese positions along the east- 
ern slopes of Mt. Saksin and on that hill's 
eastern nose, but the Intelligence and Re- 
connaissance Platoon had a less optimistic 
report. Probing into rugged, heavily for- 
ested terrain between the east nose and Hill 
225, the platoon had been ambushed. Extri- 
cating itself with difficulty, it reported that 
the Japanese were dug in in great strength 
all over Hill 225. 

Orders for the next day reflected a still 
prevailing notion at task force headquarters 
that the Japanese defenses were weak. The 
1st Battalion was to push on through the 
defile and at the same time secure Lone 
Tree Hill. The 2d Battalion was to clear 
Hill 225. Prior to the 26th, field artillery 
had been supporting the 158th Infantry 
from positions 8,000 to 10,000 yards to the 
east. Once the infantry had debouched from 
the western end of the defile, it would move 
into an area beyond the most effective range 
of artillery support. Therefore the 147th 
Field Artillery Battalion's 105-mm. how- 
itzers were displaced forward to Maffin No. 
1 to support the advance of the 158th In- 
fantry on the 27th. 

The Defile 

At 0700 hours on 27 May two destroyers, 
firing on Lone Tree Hill and the Maffin 
Strip area, started scheduled fire support 
for the day's advance. Artillery and infan- 
try action on this morning was much more 
closely co-ordinated than on the previous 
day. The destroyer fire lasted until 0745, 
at which time the field artillery and all the 
81 -mm. mortars of the 158th Infantry laid 
concentrations on suspected and known 
enemy positions in the defile, on Lone Tree 
Hill, and on Hill 225. At 0830 Company F, 
moving around Company E on the south 



flank, started its attack. Behind close artil- 
lery support, apparently controlled by ar- 
tillery liaison planes for the most part, Com- 
pany F pushed up a terrain feature initially 
believed to be Hill 225. It was not discov- 
ered until late the next day that F Company 
was actually on the eastern nose of Mt. Sak- 
sin and about 700 yards east of its reported 
location. 

Since artillery fire had knocked out two 
enemy machine gun nests which had been 
delaying the advance, patrols of Company 
F were able to reach the top of the eastern 
ridge. The rest of the company moved up 
the hill at 1000, encountering scattered rifle 
fire from enemy positions to the southwest. 
Company E, just before noon, arrived atop 
the same hill on F's right. Company E had 
orders to secure the southern slopes of the 
defile between Hill 225 and Lone Tree Hill. 

Company B, still at the eastern entrance 
to the defile, was again unable to make any 
progress and during the morning was held 
up by machine gun and mortar fire from 
concealed enemy positions on the southern 
and southwestern slopes of Lone Tree Hill. 
No sooner had some of these positions been 
eliminated by American artillery and mor- 
tar fire than Company B was subjected to 
enemy machine gun and mortar fire origi- 
nating from the northeast side of Hill 225, 
the reported location of Companies E and 
F. Actually, the artillery fire had not been 
entirely effective, because it had not reached 
into deep draws or caves in which many of 
the Japanese weapons were emplaced. 

Company E, attempting to move down 
the northern slopes of the eastern ridge to 
Company B's aid, was soon forced back by 
enemy rifle fire and infantry counterattacks 
from the west. At the same time small parties 
of Japanese, under cover of their own ma- 
chine guns, started a series of minor counter- 



248 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



attacks against Company B. Company F 
did not become engaged in this action. In- 
stead, the company dug in on the ridge it 
was holding and sent patrols to the south 
and west to probe Japanese defenses. It was 
soon discovered that the combination of 
rugged terrain and Japanese machine gun 
and rifle fire limited patrolling to a very 
small area. 

North of Company B, Company A pa- 
trolled along the west bank of the Snaky 
River and on the eastern slope of Lone Tree 
Hill during the morning and early after- 
noon. About 1630 the company moved in 
force up Lone Tree, finding the eastern 
slope of the hill to be unoccupied. Most of 
the fire that had harassed the company dur- 
ing the morning had apparently originated 
on the beach below the northern face of 
Lone Tree Hill. For the night the unit dug 
in at the crest of the hill. Again, little ground 
had been gained, although the eastern nose 
of Mt. Saksin and Lone Tree Hill had been 
at least partially occupied. 

The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 158th 
Infantry had now been engaged in heavy 
combat for three days against an enemy 
force which was aggressive and clever on 
the defense. The combined Right Sector 
Force- Yuki Group troops were well led, 
taking every advantage of heavily forested 
terrain for cover and concealment, yet re- 
taining their mobility. The Japanese were 
tried and trained troops, having had con- 
siderable experience in China and having 
been in the Sarmi area for over six months. 
The 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry, on the 
other hand, was in combat for the first time. 
The 2d and 3d Battalions had been in com- 
bat on New Britain against lesser opposition 
and in different terrain, and both had un- 
dergone some reorganization and had re- 
ceived many untried replacements since. By 



evening on 27 May the 158th Infantry had 
lost almost 300 men killed, wounded, or 
evacuated as nonbattle casualties — the lat- 
ter principally as a result of heat exhaustion. 
American artillery support had not been all 
that could be desired. Maps were so inac- 
curate that the artillery had difficulty find- 
ing designated targets, and it was impossible, 
even with the aid of spotting aircraft and 
forward observers, to lay fire into the en- 
emy's defile positions without endangering 
the forward troops. Finally, tank support 
had not been obtainable, much as it was 
needed by Company B, which was bearing 
the brunt of the defile warfare. 

So important did Colonel Herndon now 
consider tank support that he secured per- 
mission to have two tanks brought forward 
to the beach at the mouth of the Snaky 
River. The tanks were to be transported by 
LCM's (all of which were badly needed at 
the Arare-Toem beachhead and at Wakde 
Island for lightering purposes ) to the mouth 
of the Snaky on the morning of the 28th and 
were to move south along the stream to aid 
the units trying to break through the defile. 
Two rifle companies, one each from the 1st 
and 2d Battalions, were assigned to the de- 
file battle on the 28th. Two other rifle com- 
panies of the 1st Battalion were to advance 
over Lone Tree Hill and down its western 
slopes. The first objective of the latter units 
was the point at which the main road, after 
winding south around Lone Tree Hill, again 
reached the shores of Maffin Bay. This point 
was about 700 yards northwest of the hill 
crest and about 100 yards from the north- 
eastern edge of Maffin Strip. In a simulta- 
neous movement the 2d Battalion (less one 
rifle company) was to move across Hill 225 
to the western outlet of the defile. Thence 
the battalion was to strike north along the 
road to the eastern end of Maffin Strip lo 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



249 



establish contact with the 1st Battalion's two 
companies. 

This two-pronged attack was designed to 
seal off Lone Tree Hill and render Japanese 
positions on the hill untenable. At the same 
time, combined infantry-tank action was to 
clear the defile and open the main overland 
supply route to Maffin Strip. The road, 
which engineers had been repairing forward 
from the Tor for the last three days, would 
then be opened for traffic from the river 
to the airfield. The ultimate regimental 
objective was still the east bank of the Woske 
River. 

On the 28th, after a well-timed prelimi- 
nary artillery bombardment, Company C 
moved forward to the crest of Lone Tree 
Hill and joined Company A. The latter unit 
then attempted to move down the steep 
northern face of the hill to the rocky beach 
below. Japanese defenders in caves and 
crevices on this clifflike side stopped the at- 
tack before it was well under way. It was 
impossible to place fire on the Japanese posi- 
tions from above, and Company A had to 
withdraw to the crest of Lone Tree. Com- 
pany C, at midmorning, started moving in 
densely jungled, irregular terrain along the 
western slope of the hill, attacking generally 
to the north. About 1 300 a Japanese patrol, 
coming out of a wooded area at the western 
base of the hill, fell upon Company C's left 
flank. The American unit beat off this at- 
tack, principally by rifle fire, without too 
much difficulty, but as soon as the enemy 
party was dispersed Company C was pinned 
down by mortar and machine gun fire origi- 
nating near the eastern edge of Maffin 
Strip. Elements of Company A then tried to 
move down the west side of the hill along 
a route south of Company C's positions. 
This effort was also greeted with Japanese 
machine gun and rifle fire and was aban- 



doned. The two companies could now see 
Japanese movements to the southwest, 
movements which seemed to presage an im- 
minent enemy attack in force against the 
west side of Lone Tree Hill. The terrain on 
the west side of Lone Tree was not well 
suited for defense. Moreover, both Company 
A and Company C were running low on 
water and ammunition and the 1st Battalion 
commander considered it probable that the 
terrain would prevent successful resupply 
efforts. He therefore ordered the two com- 
panies to withdraw to the line of the Snaky 
River. This maneuver began about 1 600. 

Meanwhile, south of Lone Tree Hill, 
Companies B and E had been making deter- 
mined efforts to break through the defile. 
Patrols probing forward during the morning 
reported steadily increasing Japanese resist- 
ance on both sides of the pass. About noon 
further efforts were temporarily abandoned, 
while the heavy weapons of Company H and 
the 81 -mm. mortars of Company D laid a 
new barrage into the Japanese positions. 
After this fire, B Company moved west 
along the road and Company E, attempting 
to clear ravines on the south side of the de- 
file, followed along to B's left rear. Company 
B could not get beyond the native village 
and the attack was unsuccessful. For the 
fourth or fifth time in three days the Japa- 
nese had thrown back an assault at the 
defile. 

At 1 145 Company E relieved Company B 
near the village. The latter unit was ordered 
to move to the beach at the west side of the 
Snaky River. There the company was to set 
up a defensive perimeter to protect an engi- 
neer platoon which was blasting out of the 
beach coral an approach for the two tanks 
scheduled to be unloaded there from LCM's. 
While Company B was digging in at its new 
location it was subjected to heavy mortar, 



250 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



machine gun, and rifle fire from Japanese 
on the north face of Lone Tree Hill. At 1800 
the company therefore withdrew to the east 
side of the river mouth. The engineer pla- 
toon withdrew from the Snaky River about 
the same time, but not before a tank ap- 
proach had been completed on the beach 
east of the river mouth. 

On the southern flank Company F had 
run into strong enemy opposition during the 
morning. In the afternoon the company dis- 
covered that it had not been on Hill 225, but 
that it was now in a difficult position in a 
ravine between that hill and the eastern nose 
of Mt. Saksin. When it was noticed during 
the afternoon that enemy troops on Hill 225 
were maneuvering to attack, Company F 
withdrew up the western slopes of the east- 
ern nose. The Japanese, forestalled in their 
attempt to trap Company F in the ravine, 
then turned their attention to Company E 
at the native village. An enemy force esti- 
mated to be fifty men strong moved from the 
southwest against Company E, which drove 
the Japanese back only after a sharp fire 
fight. 

Colonel Herndon now felt that his for- 
ward positions were rapidly becoming un- 
tenable. The Japanese were apparently mov- 
ing eastward and northward in some 
strength and the terrain west of the Snaky 
River made supply of the two forward bat- 
talions extremely difficult. The colonel 
therefore radioed to the task force com- 
mander that he intended to withdraw to the 
line of the Snaky River for the night. The 
1st Battalion was to be on the north of the 
night's defensive positions and the 2d Bat- 
talion was to refuse the left flank by extend- 
ing the lines south of the road along the 
eastern nose of Mt. Saksin. Colonel Hern- 
don also planned to relieve the 1st Battalion 



with the 3d on the morrow. These plans 
were approved by General Patrick who, 
early the next morning, also ordered Col- 
onel Herndon to cease offensive efforts. 

The 158th Infantry Withdraws 

On 27 May General Patrick had been 
informed by General Krueger that two bat- 
talions of the 163d Infantry, which was still 
protecting the Toem-Arare beachhead, 
were soon to be shipped to Biak. At the 
same time General MacArthur's headquar- 
ters and Alamo Force were considering 
plans to stage a division in the Wakde- 
Sarmi area in preparation for operations 
farther to the west. The two headquarters 
decided that the 6th Infantry Division, 
which had recently completed jungle and 
amphibious training in eastern New Guinea, 
would be the most logical unit to send for- 
ward. General Krueger knew that the 163d 
Regimental Combat Team was scheduled to 
leave the Wakde-Sarmi area for Biak, but 
he did not want operations in the former 
region to be halted for lack of troops. He 
therefore recommended that a combat team 
of the 6th Division be dispatched to Wakde- 
Sarmi immediately, even without its artillery 
if leaving the latter out of the shipment 
would speed the movement of the infantry 
regiment. 27 

Because of the danger of overextending 
his lines, General Patrick had already de- 
cided to halt the westward movement of the 



" Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to TTF, WH-98, 26 May 
44, in TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44; Rad, Alamo 
Adv Hq to GHQ SWPA, WH-63, 25 May 44, in 
G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 May 44; Rad, GHQ SWPA to 
Alamo, C-12888, 24 May 44, and Rad, Alamo 
Rear Hq to Alamo Adv Hq, WF-4263, 25 May 44, 
both in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl, Wakde-Biak, 
24-26 May 44. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



251 



158th Infantry. He felt that with a garrison 
of two regimental combat teams the fifteen- 
mile-long perimeter which the Tornado 
Task Force was occupying could be held. 
Before westward advance could be resumed, 
however, Japanese forces which were har- 
assing the southern and eastern flanks of the 
Toem-Arare beachhead defenses would 
have to be dispersed. As a result of an attack 
by some 200 Japanese on Toem during the 
night of 27-28 May and because there were 
indications that the enemy was to make 
further assaults against the beachhead, the 
task force commander recommended that 
no elements of the 163d Regimental Com- 
bat Team be shipped to Biak until after the 
arrival at Toem of a combat team of the 
6th Division. 

But on the morning of 29 May, General 
Krueger notified General Patrick that the 
two battalions of the 163d Infantry would 
have to leave for Biak the next day. General 
Patrick considered that the one remaining 
infantry battalion of the 163d Regimental 
Combat Team would not be sufficiently 
strong to hold the Toem-Arare beachhead 
area. He therefore ordered the 158th In- 
fantry to send one of its battalions back 
across the Tor River. 28 

On the morning of 29 May the 1st Bat- 
talion, 158th Infantry, relieved the 3d Bat- 
talion, 163d Infantry, at Arare. General 
Patrick ordered the rest of the 158th Infan- 
try to improve its positions along the Snaky 
River and to defend that line until the ar- 
rival of a 6th Division regimental combat 
team on or about 4 June. The 1st Battalion, 
158th Infantry, was replaced on the Snaky 

28 Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to TTF, WH-173, 29 
May 44, and Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-542, 28 May 
44, both in TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44; TTF Opns 
Rpt Wakdc-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun, p. 2. 



River line by the 3d Battalion of the same 
regiment. 28 

Early the same morning Company F of 
the 158th Infantry, holding an exposed po- 
sition on the eastern nose of Mt. Saksin, 
found itself surrounded by enemy patrols. 
The Japanese appeared to be maneuvering 
for an attack and Company F hurriedly 
withdrew. The unit had to fight its way back 
to the perimeter of Company G, which was 
located on the main road about 800 yards 
northeast of the eastern nose. 

As a result of this action, and because the 
Japanese were continuing pressure against 
the 3d Battalion's Snaky River lines from 
both the south and west, Colonel Herndon 
felt that his river positions could not be held 
much longer. Worse still, from his point of 
view, his 1st Battalion had been withdrawn 
east of the Tor. Without this strength he 
believed his forces insufficient to hold the 
line at the Snaky and, at the same time, pre- 
vent the Japanese from outflanking his units 
to the south and cutting his line of commu- 
nications back to the Toem-Arare beach- 
head area. Therefore, after consultation with 
his battalion commanders, he ordered the 
2d and 3d Battalions to withdraw to the 
east bank of the Tirfoam River, 2,000 yards 
to the rear, and form a new defense line. 30 

Just past 1500 Colonel Herndon in- 
formed General Patrick of the decision to 
redispose the forward area forces. At first 
General Patrick was not inclined to consent 
to this withdrawal, but upon reconsideration 

20 Rad, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y-573, in TTF 
G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde- 
Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 44, p. 2; 158th Inf Jnl, 
9 May-21 Jun 44. 

» TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 
44, pp. 2-3; 158th RCT Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 
p. 6 ; Ltrs, Herndon to Ward, 8 Nov and 23 Dec 50, 
no sub, in OCMH files. 



252 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



gave his approval. The movement began im- 
mediately, under continuing Japanese pres- 
sure from the south. 31 About 1600 General 
Patrick arrived at Colonel Herndon's com- 
mand post, which by then had been moved 
away from the Tirfoam, where the new 
defense line was taking shape, to a point 
approximately 1,800 yards east of that 
stream. 32 Shortly thereafter General Patrick 
reported to General Krueger: "Investiga- 
tion convinced me that [the] withdrawal 
[was] unwarranted." 3S General Patrick re- 
lieved Colonel Herndon and placed in com- 
mand of the 158th Infantry Col. Earle O. 
Sandlin, who had recently arrived in the 
area and who had been acting as his chief 
of staff. 34 

Meanwhile, under Colonel Herndon's di- 
rection and in the face of continued haras- 
sing from Japanese on the south flank, the 
withdrawal had been completed without the 
loss of a single man or piece of equipment. 
Companies E, K, L, and M set up defenses 
along the east bank of the Tirfoam, with 
Company E echeloned slightly to the left 

31 Ltr, Herndon to Ward, 23 Dec 50; Rad, TTF 
to Alamo, Y-601, 29 May 44, in TTF G-3 Jnl, 
25-31 May 44; 158th Inf S-3 Opns Rpt 7, 29 
May 44, in 158th Inf Jnl file, 9 May-21 Jun 44; 
TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 44, 
p. 3. 

n Ltr, Herndon to Ward, 23 Dec 50; 158th RGT 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, p. 6. 

38 Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-601, 29 May 44, in 
TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44, copy also in Alamo 
Adv Hq G-3 Jnl- Wakde-Biak, 29-30 May 44. 

" Ibid. Gen Krueger approved Gen Patrick's ac- 
tion in: Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to TTF, WH-234, 
30 May 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 29-30 May 44. At General Patrick's request, 
no reclassification proceedings were carried through 
against Colonel Herndon, who later received an- 
other responsible post of command in the theater. 
See Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-745, 2 Jun 44, and 
Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo Adv Hq, WF-31 1, 
2 Jun 44, both in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 1-3 Jun 44. 



rear of the other three. Within the perimeter 
were 3d Battalion headquarters, the Cannon 
Company, and Company C, 27th Engi- 
neers, the latter about 900 yards east of the 
Tirfoam. The rest of the 158th Infantry 
maintained defenses back along the main 
road to the mouth of the Tor, where were 
located the 147th Field Artillery, Company 
I, and various medical units. 

At the Tirfoam Company E had not 
completed digging in when it was subjected 
to heavy mortar and machine gun fire. 
The troops manned their weapons, but the 
Japanese withdrew without attacking. 
About midnight approximately fifty Japa- 
nese bypassed Company E and fell upon 
Company C, 27th Engineers. Colonel Hern- 
don's fears of attack along his line of com- 
munications had been well taken, for the 
Right Sector Force had begun flanking 
movements designed to recapture the entire 
Maffin Bay area. However, the combat en- 
gineers quickly proved their versatility by 
driving off the enemy force with rifle, car- 
bine, and machine gun fire. Five of the en- 
gineers were killed. Enemy casualties could 
not be estimated since the Japanese removed 
their dead and wounded during the night. 35 

The remainder of the night was more 
quiet, and the next morning the defenses 
along the Tirfoam were improved. There 
were a couple of minor attacks during the 
afternoon and desultory rifle and 70-mm. 
or 75-mm. artillery fire was directed against 
all American units still west of the Tor. The 
147th Field Artillery Battalion, withdraw- 
ing to the east bank of the Tor late in the 
afternoon, was struck by some of this enemy 
artillery fire and lost one man killed. 88 

3n 158th Inf Jnl and Jnl file, 9 May-21 Jun 44; 
2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), p. 22. 

"Ibid.; 158th RGT Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 
p. 7. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 253 




LGM FERRY across mouth of Tor River, looking west. 



elements of the 163d Infantry engaged in 
litde activity in the area, the regiment had 
lost 46 men killed and 154 wounded. Other 
elements of the combat team lost 8 men 
killed, 10 wounded, and 1 missing. 87 

Redispositions of the TORNADO 
Task Force 

Upon the departure of the 1st and 3d 
Battalions, 163d Infantry, many changes 

" 163d Inf Jnl, 13-30 May 44; 163d Inf Casualty 
Rpts, atchd to 163d Inf Opns Rpt Toem-Wakde. 



Final Operations of the 158th Infantry 

While the new line along the Tirfoam 
was being developed on 30 May by the 
158th Infantry, the 1st and 3d Battalions 
of the 163d Infantry, together with regi- 
mental headquarters, departed for Biak. 
The 2d Battalion remained on the west bank 
of Tementoe Creek, which marked the east- 
ern flank of the Tornado Task Force, but it 
and the rest of the 163d Regimental Com- 
bat Team were soon to follow the other 
battalions. Through 30 May, after which 



254 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




MAP 12 



Twenty-one separate perimeters were maintained by the TORNADO Task Force 
along approximately twelve miles of coast line during the night of 30—31 May 1944. 
The Yoshino Force fell upon the isolated antiaircraft gun positions. 



were made in the dispositions of the Tor- 
nado Task Force until, by the end of the 
day, the task force was spread out over al- 
most twelve miles of coast line between 
Tementoe Creek and the Tirfoam River. 
(Map 12) The 2d and 3d Battalions, 158th 
Infantry, and other attached or organic 
units held perimeters west of the Tor. Vari- 
ous field artillery units were emplaced at 
the east side of the Tor's mouth. Task force 
headquarters was at Arare, close to the prin- 
cipal supply and ammunition dumps, and 
was protected by the 1st Battalion, 158th 
Infantry. At no point did the lines of any 
task force elements extend inland as much 
as a mile from the beach. 



At dusk there were twenty-one perimeters 
of varying sizes, strengths, and distances 
from each other. Antiaircraft units were 
especially spread out in an effort to secure 
the maximum possible protection against 
low-flying Japanese planes. The 40-mm. 
guns and some .50-caliber weapons of Bat- 
teries A and B, 202d Antiaircraft Artillery 
Battalion, were strung out in beach emplace- 
ments between the Tor River and Tementoe 
Creek, Between the task force headquarters 
perimeter at Arare and the position of Head- 
quarters, 191st Field Artillery Group, near 
the mouth of the Tor, a distance of almost 
5,000 yards, there were six separate antiair- 
craft gun emplacements. Only one of these 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



255 




perimeters, that at the mouth of the Un- 
named River west of Arare, contained other 
than antiaircraft troops, and these were men 
of the Cannon Company, 163d Infantry, 
and Battery A, 167th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion. The fifteen other perimeters included 
infantry positions or some engineer and 
artillery posts which were over 2,000 yards 
from the nearest infantry units. The perim- 
eters east of the Tor were all-around de- 
fenses, and those west of the river were 
oriented principally toward the west, where 
most of the Japanese strength was appar- 
ently located. 38 These widespread disposi- 

33 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; TTF G-3 
Jnl, 25-31 May 44; 158th RCT Opns Rpt Sarmi- 
Wakde, p. 7; 167th FA Opns Rpt Wakde, p. 7. 



tions presented the Japanese with an oppor- 
tunity to destroy all or parts of the Tornado 
Task Force in detail. 

Even while the 158th Infantry had been 
engaged in heavy fighting around Lone Tree 
Hill, the two arms of General Tagami's 
planned double envelopment had been 
slowly closing in on the Toem— Arare area. 
Bypassing the 158th Infantry by moving 
along routes up to four miles inland, the 
Yoskino Force had crossed the Tor at the 
junction of the river with the Foein on the 
night of 25-26 May. On the 26th, leading 
elements of the Matsuyama Force, advanc- 
ing from the east, had moved into position 
about two and a half miles south of Toem. 

About 200 men of the Matsuyama Force 



256 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



had attacked the positions of the 1st Battal- 
ion, 163d Infantry, near Toem during the 
night of 27-28 May and had killed two 
Americans and wounded fourteen others. 
Friendly fire during the confusion of the 
night action killed four other American sol- 
diers. The 1st Battalion killed about thirty- 
Japanese by rifle and machine gun fire and 
hand grenades, and before dawn on the 28th 
the enemy had withdrawn southeastward. 39 

It was this attack, coupled with a sus- 
picion that such assaults might be repeated 
in the near future, that had prompted Gen- 
eral Patrick's 28 May request that the 163d 
Regimental Combat Team be retained in 
the Wakde area until a regiment of the 6th 
Division arrived. But, despite the fact that 
this request was disapproved and the bulk 
of the 163d Infantry left his area on 30 May, 
it appears that General Patrick was not 
particularly alarmed about Japanese forces 
on his south flank. He had halted the ad- 
vance westward until the few Japanese he 
believed to be on the south flank could be 
dispersed, and he had brought one battalion 
of the 158th Infantry east of the Tor to re- 
place the two of the 163d Infantry which 
had left for Biak. On 28 May General Pat- 
rick estimated Japanese strength in his area 
to be 2,000-3,000 on the west flank, 300 
east of Tementoe Creek, and 300 "in roving 
bands" south of Toem and Arare. 40 

The Tornado Task Force had underesti- 
mated the strength of Japanese forces in the 
area. The figure for the number of enemy 
east of Tementoe Creek was three or four 



M TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 
44, p. 3 : Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 14—16 ; 2d Army 
Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 25—26. 

"Rads, TTF to Alamo, Y-542 and Y-573, 28 
and 29 May, respectively, both in TTF G-3 Jnl, 
25-31 May 44. 



days old on 28 May and, apparently, had 
been estimated on the basis of a single aerial 
reconnaissance. Instead of roving bands 
south of the Toem-Arare perimeter, there 
were over 2,000 organized troops of the 
Yoshino and Matsuyama Forces within 
three miles of the coast at Toem. Total en- 
emy strength in the Wakde-Sarmi area was 
still over 8,000 men rather than the maxi- 
mum of less than 4,000 estimated by the 
Tornado Task Force. 41 

American patrols found no signs of large, 
organized enemy forces south of the central 
perimeter for the two or three days follow- 
ing the attack during the night of 27-28 
May, an attack which marked the beginning 
of a series of minor assaults against the 
Toem Arare area. As a matter of fact, few 
American patrols were sent out. On the 
28th a party from Company F, 163d In- 
fantry, moving about three quarters of a 
mile up the east bank of Tementoe Creek, 
found one small Japanese bivouac area. A 
patrol of Company B, 163d Infantry, found 
a recently cut trail 1,200 yards south of 
Arare, but saw no Japanese. The next day 
the 2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, sent two 
patrols up and across Tementoe Creek, but 
neither encountered any Japanese. 

The only patrol which operated in the 
area west of Tementoe Creek on the 29th 
seems to have been sent out by the 218th 
Field Artillery Battalion. This party moved 
about 3,000 yards up the east bank of the 
Tor past Maffin No. 2. Thence the patrol 
marched overland back to its base, where it 
reported that it had found no signs of enemy 



41 The figures for the Japanese are the author's 
estimates and are based on information from both 
Allied and Japanese sources which were not then 
available to the Tornado Task Force. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



257 



activity. There are no indications in the 
Tornado Task Force's records that any 
American patrols were sent south in the area 
between the Tor River and Tementoe Creek 
on 30 May- 42 

Japanese Attacks East of the Tor 

Gun position No. 6 of Battery B, 202d 
Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, was located 
in an isolated perimeter on the beach about 
900 yards west of Arare. The position was 
approximately 500 yards distant from the 
two nearest friendly units, both of which 
were other isolated antiaircraft gun posts. 

At 1830 on 30 May, No. 6 gun position 
was attacked by a squad of Japanese infan- 
trymen from the Yoshino Force. The anti- 
aircraft artillerymen, after losing one man 
killed, killing ten of the enemy, having their 
.50-caliber machine guns jam, and running 
out of rifle ammunition, retired to gun po- 
sition No. 7 of Battery A, 500 yards to the 
east. The latter position was attacked inter- 
mittently from 1840 to 0430, but the com- 
bined gunners of the two positions threw 
back each assault with rifle and machine 
gun fire. About 500 yards west of Battery 
B's No. 6 position was situated Battery A's 
No. 6. The latter perimeter was harassed by 
mortar, rifle, and machine gun fire from 
shortly after 1830 hours throughout the 
night. It was attacked by Yoshino Force 
troops at least twice, but the antiaircraft 
gunners managed to drive the enemy back 
each time. Gun position No. 8 of Battery B, 
another 400 yards to the west, was also at- 



" The foregoing information on patrol activity 
is from: TTF G-2 Jnl, 25 May-3 Jun 44; TTF 
G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44; 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 
Jun 44. 



tacked about 1830. The .50-caliber multiple 
machine gun in the position became over- 
heated and jammed. The men in the posi- 
tion, running low on rifle ammunition, 
scurried out of the gun pit and took cover 
in the brush along the beach. Here they 
stayed until the enemy withdrew at 0430. 

In the action against the four gun posi- 
tions, the Japanese captured one .50-caliber 
machine gun, damaged a multiple .50 : cali- 
ber mount and removed the gun barrels, 
damaged two 40-mm. guns, and destroyed 
miscellaneous electrical and communica- 
tions equipment. Using the captured .50- 
caliber machine gun to good advantage, the 
enemy force which attacked Battery B's No. 
6 position and A's No. 7 moved away from 
those two gun pits toward the task force 
supply dump and the perimeter of Company 
B, 158th Infantry. 43 

One group from the Yoshino Force began 
delivering machine gun and rifle fire on the 
1st Battalion, 158th Infantry, about 1900, 
and at 2200 the Yoshino Force launched a 
furious, suicidal attack against Company B. 
This assault continued until 0430, while the 
Japanese tried to fire the task force supply 
dumps with "Molotov Cocktails" and dem- 
olition charges and engaged in hand-to- 
hand fighting with the men of Company B, 
who used rifles, hand grenades, pistols, 
knives, and bayonets to beat off the assault. 
At 0430 the attack abated and the enemy 
withdrew to the south. Total American 
losses during the night action were twelve 



43 Information concerning action against the anti- 
aircraft units is taken from a file entitled: Corre- 
spondence, Wakde-Sarmi-Toem Task Force, in the 
files of the AA Sec, Hq Sixth Army, in ORB RAC 
AGO collection. Info about the Japanese side is 
from Opns of Yuki Group, p. 16, and 2d Army Opns 
at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), p. 26. 



258 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



killed and ten wounded. At daylight fifty- 
two dead Japanese were counted in front of 
the antiaircraft and infantry positions. 
There were signs that the enemy had car- 
ried away dead or wounded men and it 
was therefore estimated that the Japanese 
losses were much higher than those actually 
counted. 44 

On the morning of 31 May the Tornado 
Task Force, in expectation of more night 
attacks, set to work to strengthen the de- 
fenses between the Tor River and Tementoe 
Creek and to reduce the number of separate 
perimeters along the beach. This action was 
given added impetus during the day by re- 
ceipt of a message from Alamo Force which 
was interpreted to mean that the remainder 
of the 163d Regimental Combat Team (the 
2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, the 167th Field 
Artillery, engineer units, etc.) was to be sent 
to Biak immediately. 45 General Patrick 
thereupon ordered the elements of the 158th 
Infantry still west of the Tor to withdraw to 
the east side of that river and take over the 
perimeters still held by parts of the 163 d 
Regimental Combat Team. A bridgehead 
was to be maintained on the west bank of the 
Tor, but the main task force perimeter was 
to be reduced to the area between Tementoe 
Creek and the Tor and no further offensive 
efforts westward were to be undertaken un- 
til the arrival of a combat team from the 6th 
Division. 4 " 



44 1st Bn 158th Inf Jnl 3 11 May-21 Jun 44; TTF 
G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44. 

" Rad, Alamo to CRO GHQ SWPA (with Info 
copy to TTF), WF-6416, 31 May 44, in TTF G-3 
Jnl, 25-31 May 44; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 
25 May-12 Jun 44, p. 3. 

"Ltr Order, GG TTF to GO 158th Inf, 31 May 
44, and Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-667, 31 May 44, 
both in TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44. 



Colonel Sandlin, commanding the 158th 
Infantry, was made responsible for setting 
up the new task force defenses. He decided 
to leave the 2d Battalion, 158th Infantry, 
west of the Tor. The 3d Battalion, less Com- 
pany K, was to move to Tementoe Creek to 
relieve the 2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, 
while Company K was to reinforce the per- 
imeter around the task force supply and 
ammunition dumps at Arare. The total 
number of separate perimeters was to be 
drastically reduced and those left were to be 
strengthened. All units assigned defensive 
missions, especially the infantry elements, 
were to undertake intensive patrolling south 
of the Toem— Arare beachhead area. 47 

By nightfall redispositions had been com- 
pleted. In contrast to the situation the previ- 
ous night there were now only eight separate 
perimeters. One, held by the 2d Battalion 
(reinforced) of the 158th Infantry, was west 
of the Tor. General Patrick decided to keep 
the 2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, ashore dur- 
ing the night. Therefore, the 3d Battalion, 
158th Infantry, did not move to Tementoe ' 
Creek but remained on the east bank of the 
Tor at the river's mouth. In the same perim- 
eter were regimental headquarters and field 
artillery, antiaircraft, and engineer units. 
The next perimeter to the east was at the 
mouth of the Unnamed River, west of Arare. 
At the latter village and at Toem were 
other defensive positions. Another large per- 
imeter stretched back along the beach from 
the mouth of Tementoe Creek. The anti- 
aircraft gun positions, with but two excep- 
tions, were well within the perimeters of 



" Ltr, CO 1 58th Inf to CG TTF, 31 May 44, sub : 
Plan for Defense of Beachhead between the Tor 
and Tementoe Rivers, in TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 
May 44. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



259 



larger units and the two exceptions were 
within 400 yards of supporting forces. The 
precautions taken by Colonel Sandlin were 
undoubtedly well advised, but in compari- 
son with the previous night, the night of 3 1 
May-1 June proved abnormally quiet. 18 

The Japanese Withdraw 

On the morning of 1 June General Pat- 
rick was informed by Alamo Force that the 
2d Battalion, 163d Infantry, and the other 
remaining elements of the 1 63d Regimental 
Combat Team were not to leave for Biak 
until a regimental combat team from the 
6th Infantry Division arrived at Toem. 
General Patrick, who by now considered 
that the Japanese operations on the south 
constituted a real threat to the Tornado 
Task Force, decided to make no major 
changes in dispositions until the arrival of 
the 6th Division unit. Instead, for the next 
few days the task force further strengthened 
its positions in expectation of strong Japa- 
nese attacks. 

But the Yoshino and Matsuyama Forces 
had already missed whatever chance they 
may have had to destroy the Tornado Task 
Force in a piecemeal fashion. Apparently 
neither Colonel Yoshino nor Colonel Mat- 
suyama could co-ordinate operations of the 
two arms of the double envelopment, and 
because of communication and supply dif- 
ficulties and the distance involved, General 
Tagami, still ensconced in his command post 
in the Mt. Saksin area, could exercise no 
tactical control over the two forces, which 
could organize no more effective attacks. 
The Japanese, having suffered heavy losses 
in vain, now decided that further efforts to 



41 TTF Maps and Overlays, 25 May-1 2 Jun 44; 
TTF G-3 Jnl, 25-31 May 44; 158th Inf Jnl, 9 
May-21 Jun 44. 



seize the Toem— Arare beachhead would be 
futile. 

On 10 June the Yoshino Force started 
withdrawing southwest across the Tor to 
take up new positions in the Maffin Bay 
area. The Matsuyama Force, having diffi- 
culty reorganizing and collecting food, did 
not begin retiring westward until two days 
later. Meanwhile, the Tornado Task Force 
had settled down to await the arrival of a 
combat team from the 6th Infantry Division 
before resuming offensive operations. 49 

While enemy attacks east of the Tor grad- 
ually stopped after 1 June, many small at- 
tacks had to be beaten back west of the 
river at the bridgehead held to 3 June by 
the 2d Battalion, 158th Infantry, and after 
that by the 3d Battalion. During the first 
week in June, all elements of the Tornado 
Task Force undertook extensive patrolling 
which was productive of definite evidence 
that the entire 223d Infantry, 36th Division, 
was in the Sarmi area. 

Prior to the landings near Wakde on 17 
May, the Allies had believed that only parts 
of the 223d and 224th Infantry Regiments 
were stationed in the Sarmi area, but shortly 
after D Day all three battalions of the 224th 
Infantry had been accounted for. On the 
basis of this information and the discovery 
during the first week of June that the entire 
223 d Infantry was also in the area, Allied 
intelligence officers raised their preassault 
estimates of Japanese strength from 6,500 
men to 10,776 — the latter estimate being 
remarkably close to the Japanese figure of 
1 1 ,000. The Allies believed that of the orig- 
inal 10,000-odd less than 4,750 Japanese, 
including 3,500 combat troops, were still 



" TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-1 2 Jun 
44, p. 4; TTF G-3 Jnls, 25-31 May and 1-12 Jun 
44; 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; Opns of 
Yuki Group, pp. 16-18; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi 
and Biak (Rev), pp. 25-29. 



260 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



alive by the end of the week. According to 
Japanese sources, this estimate was low and 
should have read a total of 8,000 men and 
over 4,000 combat troops. 50 

The Relief of the 158th Infantry 

General Patrick now believed, as Colonel 
Herndon had previously, that the enemy 
would maintain a strong defense against any 
new offensive westward from the Tor and 
considered it probable that resistance would 
center in the Lone Tree Hill area. He had 
already made plans to bypass that area by 
a shore-to-shore movement to Sarmi Penin- 
sula, whence Lone Tree Hill could be at- 
tacked from the rear. This plan had been 
temporarily abandoned when the 163d In- 
fantry left for Biak Island and the Japanese 
started their attacks east of the Tor. How- 
ever, the new strength estimates, coupled 
with his belief that Lone Tree Hill and Hill 
225 would be strongly held, prompted Gen- 
eral Patrick to revive the bypassing plan. 
The imminent arrival of reinforcements 
from the 6th Division would, he thought, 
provide the troop strength necessary to carry 
out the maneuver. 

The Tornado Task Force commander 
planned to send one battalion to Sarmi Pen- 
insula on 9 June and another the following 
day. Scouts had already landed on the pen- 
insula and had reported it undefended. It 
therefore seemed possible that the proposed 
movement would meet with no opposition. 
Once the peninsula had been secured, the 
two battalions (both of which were to be 



M TTF G-3 Jnl, 1-12 Jun 44; Alamo G-2 Wkly 
Rpts, 44, 7 Jun, and 45, 14 Jun 44, copies in G-2 
DofA files; Opns of Yuki Group, p. 13; Hist of 2d 
Area. Army, pp. 55—58; 2d Army Opns, pp. 2—6. 



from the 6th Division ) were to move south- 
east down the coast ten miles to Lone Tree 
Hill. This movement was to be co-ordinated 
with a simultaneous drive westward from 
the Tor River by the 158th Infantry. 51 

Again, the shore-to-shore movement had 
to be postponed when it was discovered that 
necessary naval support vessels could not be 
made available because they were engaged 
in operations off Biak Island, 200 miles to 
the northwest. Then, when the 6th Division 
began to reach Toem on 5 June, that divi- 
sion's commander requested that none of 
his troops be employed offensively until at 
least two regimental combat teams were 
ashore and his men could become ac- 
quainted with the terrain and situation in 
the area. Finally, landing craft to be used 
in the bypassing maneuver had to be used 
to unload the large ships which brought the 
6th Division to Toem. 32 The first units of the 
6th Division to arrive in the Wakde-Sarmi 
area were the 1st Infantry Regiment and the 
6th Engineer Battalion (C). The 1st Infan- 
try immediately relieved that part of the 
158th Infantry which was holding the 
Toem— Arare beachhead perimeter. 

General Patrick, although he had can- 
celed the amphibious movement to Sarmi 
Peninsula, now decided to resume the ad- 
vance westward with the 158th Infantry 
moving overland from the Tor. This attack 
was to begin on the morning of 7 June. The 
first regimental objective was the Lone Tree 



51 TTF Rpt, Wakde-Sarmi, 25 May-12 Jun 44, 
p. 9; Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-81 7, 3 Jun 44, in TTF 
G-3 Jnl, 1-12 Jun 44. 

" Ibid.; Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to TTF, WH-123, 
4 Jun 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 
3-4 Jun 44; Rads, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y-l 1 16 
and Y-l 11 7, 11 Jun 44, in TTF G-3 Jnl, 1-12 
Jun 44. 



LONE TREE HILL: THE INITIAL ATTACKS 



261 



Hill-Hill 225 area, and the final objective 
was the Woske River, as it had been on 25 
May. 53 

The 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry, crossed 
the Tor on 6 June and relieved the 3d Bat- 
talion, which moved back to the east bank, 
and the 2d Battalion joined the 1st on the 
next day. The enemy west of the Tor re- 
mained inactive on 7 June while the 1st 
and 2d Battalions patrolled toward Maffin 
No. 1 and made preparations to move west- 
ward in force the next morning. The 1st 
Battalion was to advance along the coastal 
road while the 2d, on the left, was to push 
cross-country in a deep enveloping maneu- 
ver south of the beach. The advance was to 
be cautious, and the progress of the 1st 
Battalion was to depend upon that of the 2d. 
All units were to halt at 1600 each day to 
begin organizing night defensive positions. 54 

Both the 1st and 2d Battalions, 158th 
Infantry, jumped off in the attack at 0830 
hours, 8 June. 55 The advance was supported 
by a platoon of the 603d Tank Company 
and was preceded by a brief concentration 
fired by the 167th Field Artillery. During 
most of the morning there was little oppo- 
sition. About 1100, however, enemy rifle 
and machine gun fire began forcing the 2d 
Battalion back toward the main road, and 
Company E, south of the main body of the 



5 ' 1st Inf S-3 Per Rpt 1, 5 Jun 44, in TTF G-3 
Jnl, 1-12 Jun 44; Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-911, 6 
Jun 44, in TTF G-2 Jnl, 1-12 Jun 44; TTF FO 3, 
6 Jun 44, filed in TTF Opns Rpt Wakdc-Sarmi, 25 
May- 12 Jun 44. 

« TTF FO 3, 6 Jun 44; 1st Bn 158 Inf Jnl, 11 
May-21 Jun 44; 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; 
158th RCT Opns Rpt Sarmi-Wakde, 11 May-21 
Jun 44, p. 9. 

31 Information in the remainder of this section is 
from: 1st Bn 158th Inf Jnl, 11 May-21 Jun 44; 2d 
Bn 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; TTF G-3 Jnl, 
1-12 Jun 44; 158th Inf Jnl, 9 May-21 Jun 44; 158th 
RCT Opns Rpt Sarmi-Wakde, pp. 9-10; 2d Army 
Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 23-24. 



battalion, lost contact with the rest of the 
attacking force for two or three hours. 

After 1200, resistance also began to stiffen 
on the 1st Battalion's front. The attack 
bogged down at a line of bunkers and pill- 
boxes which guarded the coastal road just 
west of the small lakes 1 ,500 yards east of the 
Tirfoam. These defensive positions had been 
constructed, repaired, or reoccupied since 
the last time the 158th Infantry had covered 
the same terrain. Tank support was re- 
quested. Two tanks arrived at the front late 
in the afternoon and soon reduced the pill- 
boxes, but by the time this mission had been 
accomplished, it was time to start digging in 
for the night. The 1st Battalion set up its de- 
fenses along the line of destroyed positions 
and extended its perimeter from the road 
north to the beach. The 2d Battalion, re- 
assembled on the road by 1 600, refused the 
south flank. Casualties during the day had 
been 4 men killed and 13 wounded, while 
27 Japanese had been killed and 1 captured. 
A quantity of enemy arms and ammunition 
had also been seized. 

The night passed without incident and 
early on 9 June patrols began to probe west- 
ward toward the Tirfoam. Scouts reported 
that the Japanese were holding another de- 
fense line, including reoccupied bunkers, on 
a slight rise at the west bank of the river. 
About 1000 hours, tank-infantry teams be- 
gan to destroy the Japanese-held positions 
along the new line. While tank 75-mm, fire 
was destroying bunkers or forcing the Japa- 
nese to seek cover, infantrymen crept for- 
ward to toss grenades into bunker gun ports 
or shoot down Japanese who tried to escape 
from the area. While these tank-infantry 
team operations were taking place, the rest 
of the two infantry battalions rested. Japa- 
nese 75-mm. fire, from a weapon emplaced 
on the beach between the Snaky River and 



262 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Lone Tree Hill, harassed the 1st Battalion 
for a while, but this fire was summarily 
stopped when a 155-mm. howitzer of the 
2 1 8th Field Artillery Battalion scored a di- 
rect hit on the enemy piece. 

By 1130 the enemy defensive positions 
had been cleaned out and the 1st and 2d 
Battalions resumed the advance westward. 
Aided by fire from the 147th Field Artillery, 
which had supplanted the 167th in the close 
support role, the two infantry units probed 
cautiously forward, and it was not until 
1 530 that both reached the east bank of the 
Tirfoam. Opposition was scattered, but the 
American units lost 6 men killed and 6 
wounded. It was estimated that 50 of the 
enemy had been killed and one was 
captured. 

Undoubtedly the 158th Infantry could 
have crossed the Tirfoam River during the 
afternoon, but, late in the morning, the 
unit's mission had been changed as a result 
of new orders from General Krueger, who 
planned to employ the 158th Infantry for 
an assault on Noemfoor Island, 300 miles 
northwest of Sarmi, in late June or early 
July. It was necessary that the unit be pre- 
pared to move from Wakde-Sarmi on short 
notice and General Krueger ordered Gen- 
eral Patrick not to involve it deeply in of- 
fensive operations. Advances west of the 
Tirfoam had therefore been postponed until 
a second combat team of the 6th Division 
could arrive in the area to relieve the 158th 
Tnfantry. 



On 10 and 11 June the 158th Infantry- 
limited its activities to patrolling, consoli- 
dating defensive positions, and driving 
Japanese outposts westward. One outpost, 
lying southeast of the 2d Battalion, was 
manned by about a hundred Japanese and 
had to be cleared by tank fire and infantry 
assault. The Japanese, who were members 
of a 223d Infantry company assigned to the 
Right Sector Force, fled toward Mt. Saksin, 
leaving behind 4 heavy machine guns, 1 
light machine gun, 2 70-mm. howitzers, and 
1 37-mm. antitank gun. Patrolling after the 
1 1th was productive of one strange piece of 
enemy equipment — a pair of Japanese ice 
skates. 

On 14 June the 20th Infantry, 6th Divi- 
sion, relieved the 158th Infantry at the Tir- 
foam. The 158th recrossed the Tor and 
went into a defensive perimeter on the west 
bank of Tementoe Creek. Patrols sent south 
and east during the next week encountered 
a few stragglers from the Japanese garrison 
at Hollandia or from the Matsuyama Force. 
On the 2 2d the entire regimental combat 
team was relieved of all combat responsi- 
bility in the Wakde-Sarmi area and began 
final preparations for the Noemfoor Island 
operation. 

During its operations in the Wakde-Sarmi 
area the 158th Regimental Combat Team 
lost 70 men killed, 257 wounded, and 4 
missing. The unit took 1 1 Japanese prisoners 
and estimated that it killed 920 of the enemy. 



CHAPTER XI 



Lone Tree Hill and Beyond 



The 6th Division's 20th Infantry, to- 
gether with the 6th Medical Battalion, the 
1st and 51st Field Artillery Battalions, and 
miscellaneous other division units arrived at 
Toem on 1 1 June. The 1st Infantry and the 
6th Engineers were already in the area and 
the rest of the division, including the 63d In- 
fantry and the 80th Field Artillery Battal- 
ion, began unloading on 14 June. With the 
1 1 June convoy had come the division com- 
mander, Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, and 
his headquarters. Under General Sibert's 
command the Tornado Task Force was to 
continue the drive westward toward Sarmi. 
The capture of Sarmi and the destruction of 
Japanese forces west of the Tor River were 
to be accomplished rapidly, for plans were 
already being made by Alamo Force to em- 
ploy the 6th Division in another operation 
which, scheduled for late July, involved sei- 
zure of an air-base site on the northwestern 
tip of the Vogelkop Peninsula. 1 

The 6th Division Against Lone Tree Hill 

General Sibert assumed command of the 
Tornado Task Force on 1 2 June. 2 His first 

' TTF G-3 Jnl, 1-12 Jun 44; Ltr, OI, Comdr 
Alamo Force to CG 6 th Inf Div, 10 Jun 44, in 
Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 10-11 Jun 
44; Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo Adv Hq, WF- 
3060, 15 Jun 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 15-16 Jun 44. 

' On the same date Headquarters, 6th Infantry Di- 
vision, began operating as Headquarters, Tornado 



problem was to get the various units of the 
6th Division unloaded. The division had 
been hastily and unsystematic ally loaded at 
Milne Bay, in eastern New Guinea, because 
the ships which were to carry it to Toem ar- 
rived at Milne Bay so late that comprehen- 
sive loading plans could neither be made nor 
executed. Moreover, the Toem beaches were 
mediocre, unloading and storing facilities 
inadequate, and lighterage was insufficient. 
Unloading therefore proceeded very slowly, 
and the 20th Infantry had to borrow many 
crew-served weapons from the 158th Infan- 
try before it could relieve the latter unit at 
the Tirfoam. 3 

The Objective 

General Sibert believed that it would be 
tactically and logistically unsound for his 
division to engage in offensive action until 
all its units were unloaded, settled, and ac- 
quainted with the combat area. Therefore 
he planned to have the 1st Infantry mop up 
south of Toem and Arare until unloading 

Task Force, in place of Headquarters, 158th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, which had held that role 
since it, in turn, had replaced Headquarters, 163d 
Regimental Combat Team, on 25 May. 

3 Rad, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y 1 117, 11 Jun 
44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 11-13 
Jun 44; Ltr, Gen Sibert to Gen Krueger, 18 Jun 44, 
in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 27-31 
Jul 44. While in command of the Tornado Task 
Force, General Sibert wrote almost daily personal 
letters to General Krueger. 



264 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



was complete, and he instructed the 20th 
Infantry to limit its action to sending pa- 
trols west of the Tirfoam to locate enemy 
defenses. After the 20th received its own 
equipment, it would push westward in con- 
junction with a series of battalion shore-to- 
shore movements along the coast toward 
Sarmi. General Sibert's staff estimated that 
unloading, mopping up, and patrolling 
would be completed in time for the 20th 
Infantry to begin a major offensive on 1 
July. 4 

General Krueger would not sanction such 
a delay in initiating an advance westward. 
Surf, beach, and terrain conditions in the 
Toem-Arare area had proved unsatisfac- 
tory for the establishment of a staging base, 
but it was known that the shore of Maffin 
Bay afforded better conditions. General 
Krueger realized that quick control over the 
Maffin Bay area was necessary if the theater 
were to make any use of the Wakde-Sarmi 
region as a staging base. On 18 June he 
therefore ordered General Sibert to start an 
immediate offensive, and the latter accord- 
ingly changed his plans. 

The 1 st Infantry was instructed to relieve 
20th Infantry elements at the Tor bridge- 
head, and the 20th Infantry was directed to 
concentrate at the Tirfoam in time to attack 
westward on 20 June. The initial objective 
was the Lone Tree Hill-Hill 225 area, but 
the advance was to continue until all Japa- 
nese in the coastal area between the Tirfoam 
and Sarmi town had been destroyed or dis- 
persed inland. 5 

4 Rads, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y-1116 and Y- 
1 1 1 7, 1 1 Jun 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 1 1-13 Jun 44 ; Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo 
Adv Hq, WF-3060, 15 Jun 44, in Alamo Adv Hq 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 15-16 Jun 44. 

5 Rad, Alamo to TTF, WH-3478, 18 Jun 44, in 
TTF G-2 Jnl, 12-23 Jun 44; Ltr, Sibert to Krueger, 
18 Jun 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 27-31 Jul 44; Rad, TTF to Alamo, Y-1268, 



The 158th Infantry had spent but four 
days in the vicinity of Lone Tree Hill and 
had not been able to explore the terrain 
thoroughly. 6 Such information as the regi- 
ment had acquired was turned over to the 
6th Infantry Division but proved sketchy 
and not altogether accurate. Beginning on 
21 June, the 20th Infantry was to gain a 
new and more detailed picture of the Lone 
Tree Hill area. 

At the top of Lone Tree Hill was a stretch 
of rough but generally level ground lying 
mostly along the western part of the hill. 
This flat ground, about 700 yards long north 
to south, was shaped like a crude dumbbell. 
At its northern end, the level area was about 
300 yards wide. It narrowed at the center 
of the hill to less than 100 yards but broad- 
ened again on the south to a width of about 
250 yards. There were many coral outcrop- 
pings, potholes, and small crevices, while on 
the north the hill terminated in a very rugged 
prominence called Rocky Point. This ter- 
rain feature, which extended into Maffin 
Bay from the central mass of Lone Tree Hill, 
was about 300 yards wide east to west. Its 
northern face was not as heavily overgrown 

18 Jun 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 18-19 Jun 44; TTF FO 7, 18 Jun 44, in TTF, 
FO's and Daily Opnl Orders, 13 Jun-18 Jul 44; 
TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44, 
p. 10. 

6 Terrain information in the rest of this section is 
compiled from: TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 12 
Jun-18 Jul 44, pp. 2-4; Sketches in TTF Opns Rpt 
Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44; Ltrs, Sibert to 
Krueger, 18 and 26 Jun 44, in Alamo Rear Hq 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 27-31 Jul 44; Ltrs and atchd 
sketches, Sibert to Krueger, 27, 28, and 29 Jun 44, 
in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 17-20 
Jul 44 ; G-2 TTF, Rpt to Comdr TTF, 26 Jun 44, in 
Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 27-31 Jul 
44; Rad, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, no number, 26 
Jun 44, in TTF G-2 Jnl, 24 Jun-2 Jul 44. The past 
tense is used in the description because the terrain 
was extensively changed by air, naval, and artillery 
bombardment and by engineer demolitions and con- 
struction. 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



265 



as the rest of Lone Tree Hill. Although 
Rocky Point's northeast slope was steep, 
foot troops could climb that face with more 
ease than they could approach the top of 
Lone Tree Hill from most other points. 

A deep ravine ran southwest into the cen- 
tral mass of Lone Tree Hill from a sandy 
beach on the east side of Rocky Point. The 
floor of the ravine varied from 20 to 30 
yards in width and its nearly vertical western 
wall was 40 to 50 feet high. Both sides were 
honeycombed with natural or man-made 
tunnels, caverns, and small caves, most of 
which were connected with each other by 
underground or deeply defiladed passages. 
Some caves reached a width of 40 feet, a 
depth into the hillside of 50 feet, and a 
height of 20 feet. The ravine terminated on 
the eastern slope of Lone Tree Hill in a 
steep grade at the narrow central portion of 
the hilltop. 

East of the ravine and extending to the 
west bank of the Snaky was an oval-shaped, 
low, and generally flat shelf about 250 yards 
wide east to west and almost 450 yards long. 
Its eastern and northern sides lay about 20 
feet above the surrounding sea-level plain. 
The approaches from the beach or the 
Snaky River were very steep and in places 
were sheer, low cliffs. On its southwestern 
side the shelf led to precipitous grades 
reaching to the top of Lone Tree Hill. South 
of the narrow section of the hilltop plateau 
these grades flattened into a wide draw with 
gradual slopes. 

West of Rocky Point was a beach not 
more than twenty feet deep, behind which 
was a vertical rock and clay ledge varying 
from three to five feet in height. Between the 
ledge and the western face of Lone Tree Hill 
was a heavily forested swampy area extend- 
ing more than 300 yards inland. The west- 
ern face of the hill was an almost vertical 



cliff, 60 to 80 feet high, and was rock-faced 
but covered with heavy jungle undergrowth. 
The steepest part, about 700 yards long, 
gave way at the southwest corner of Lone 
Tree Hill to less precipitous heavily for- 
ested slopes extending through the defile 
between Lone Tree Hill and Hill 225. 

Lone Tree Hill contained a veritable 
maze of Japanese defenses. There were 
many caves and bunkers on the western 
cliff — positions which were hidden from 
ground observers by tall trees or under- 
growth on the cliff face. There were also a 
lew pillboxes or bunkers in the swampy area 
between the cliff and the beach west of 
Rocky Point. Two 75-mm. field pieces, defi- 
laded by rocky outcroppings, were em- 
placed by the enemy on this beach. On the 
face of Rocky Point and on the rocky shore 
below were other defensive positions and at 
least one other artillery piece. In the ravine 
east of Rocky Point were five 75-mm. moun- 
tain guns hidden in various caves or crev- 
ices. Although none of these guns could be 
traversed, they were so emplaced that they 
covered most of the northwestern, northern, 
and northeastern land and sea approaches 
to Lone Tree Hill. 

On the hilltop plateau Japanese defensive 
positions included log and earth dugouts 
which, presenting low silhouettes and cov- 
ered with undergrowth, were very difficult 
to locate. Atop the hill rough holes were also 
dug under or between the roots of large 
trees. Some of these defenses were arranged 
in lines across the ravine and wide draw 
leading to the hilltop from the northeast and 
cast, respectively. One of the most trouble- 
some installations was a Japanese observa- 
tion post at the northern part of the hilltop 
plateau. This post, about one hundred feet 
off the ground in the branches of a huge 
tree, was sturdily constructed and cleverly 



266 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



camouflaged. It had withstood air, naval, 
and artillery bombardments aimed at Lone 
Tree Hill prior to 20 June. From the post 
the Japanese could observe movements 
along the main road to the east of Lone Tree 
Hill, the entire beach area from Sarmi to 
Arare, and maneuvers on most of the hill 
itself. 

Information available to the Tornado 
Task Force on 20 June indicated that Lone 
Tree Hill was defended by 700 to 800 Japa- 
nese. Most of these troops were believed to 
be members of the 3d Battalion, 224th In- 
fantry, plus a few men and weapons of 36th 
Division artillery — 75-mm. mountain guns. 7 
The strength estimate was reasonably accu- 
rate — there were actually near 850 Japanese 
on the hill — but it did not take into account 
the Japanese south of Lone Tree Hill on Hill 
225 and the eastern nose of Mt. Saksin, from 
which enemy troops could move rapidly to 
reinforce Lone Tree Hill and from which 
they could defend the southern approaches 
to that hill. Moreover, there were elements 
of many more 36th Division units in the 
immediate Lone Tree Hill area. (Map V) 

Command in the area was exercised by 
Headquarters, Right Sector Force, now 
under Colonel Matsuyama of the 224th In- 
fantry who, as his regiment arrived west of 
the Tor, took over the sector command from 
Major Matsuoka. By 20 June the troops on 
Lone Tree Hill proper comprised the 1st 
Battalion, 224th Infantry, less one com- 
pany; the remnants of Captain Saito's 300- 
man company of 3d Battalion, 224th 
Infantry, riflemen and 36th Division artil- 
lerymen (Captain Saito had long since been 
killed) ; probably a company from the 3d 
Battalion, 223d Infantry; elements of the 

T Rad, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y-1268, 18 Jun 
44, in TTF G 2 Jnl, 12-23 Jun 44. 



16th Field Airdrome Construction Unit; 
36th Division artillery weapons and crews; 
and, finally, a few men of antiaircraft and 
service units who had been armed as auxil- 
iary infantry. South of Lone Tree Hill, on 
Hill 225 and the eastern nose of Mt. Saksin, 
were emplaced most of the rest of the 224th 
Infantry, the bulk of the 16th Field Air- 
drome Construction U nit, probably another 
company of the 223d Infantry, and an anti- 
aircraft battery converted to infantry. The 
total Japanese strength in the Lone Tree 
Hill-Hill 225-eastern nose area was prob- 
ably at least 1,800 men. The 1st Company, 
224th Infantry, down to about 30 men, was 
initially left east of the Tor to conduct re- 
connaissance and guerrilla warfare around 
the Tornado Task Force beach positions, 
but moved across the river some time after 
20 June to rejoin the rest of the Right Sector 
Force. Two companies of the 2d Battalion, 
224th Infantry, were between the Tirfoam 
and the Tor, with instructions to harass the 
Allied line of communications along the 
coastal road west from the Tor. 

About the same time that Colonel Mat- 
suyama assumed command of the Right 
Sector Force, the Yoshino Force and the 
new Yuki Group were apparently disbanded 
as such and combined to form a new Cen- 
tral Sector Force under Colonel Yoshino, 
the commander of the 223d Infantry. 
Colonel Yoshino's new sector ran west from 
the west side of Lone Tree Hill to the old 
western boundary at Sawar Creek, where 
the Left Sector Force, still under General 
Yamada, took up. Except for the one or two 
companies assigned to the Right Sector 
Force, Colonel Yoshino's entire 223d In- 
fantry was assigned to the Central Sector 
Force. Also under his command were vari- 
ous artillery, antiaircraft, and service units, 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



267 



including whatever was left of the 103d 
Field Airdrome Construction Unit. The 
remnants of the 51st Field Road Construc- 
tion Unit, formerly attached to the 224th 
Infantry, were sent to the area of the Left 
Sector Force. The bulk of Colonel Yoshino's 
troops were on the western slopes of Mt. 
Saksin, although some were in defensive 
positions along the coast immediately west 
of Lone Tree Hill. The strength of the force 
was about 2,000 men. 8 

To the Top of Lone Tree Hill 

The attack west from the Tirfoam River 
jumped off on schedule at 0800 on 20 June. 
The 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, moved 
along the main coastal road. The 3d Bat- 
talion followed closely, while the 2d re- 
mained in reserve at Maffin No. 1. Shortly 
after 1200 the 1st Battalion, having en- 
countered no opposition, reached the Snaky 
River. Company B pushed on toward the 
village at the entrance to the defile between 
Lone Tree Hill and the eastern nose of Mt. 
Saksin. This advance was greeted by a hail 
of fire from Japanese automatic weapons 
emplaced in the defile — fire reminiscent of 
the opposition encountered by Company B, 
158th Infantry, at the same place more than 
three weeks earlier. 8 

The 20th Infantry's Company B tried to 
outflank the enemy position to the south but 
was halted by intense Japanese machine gun 
fire. Tanks sent forward to aid the infantry 
were unable to reach the enemy guns be- 
cause the terrain was impassable to tracked 
or wheeled vehicles, which could scarcely 
negotiate the rough road, let alone the thick 

* Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 16-18; 2d Army Opns, 
pp. 3—6; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), 
p. 30 and Sketch 11. 

D 20th Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 14 Jun-16 Aug 44; TTF 
G-3 Jnl, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44. 



jungle and rising ground to the south. Late 
in the afternoon Company A was sent for- 
ward to Company B's position, but both 
units encountered heavy fire and soon lost 
contact with the rest of the 1st Battalion. 
The two companies remained for the night 
in an isolated perimeter near the village and 
about 400 yards west of the main body. 

The 3d Battalion had moved north off the 
coastal road during the morning, and late in 
the afternoon it had established a perimeter 
extending south 200 yards from the beach 
along the east bank of the Snaky River. The 
battalion had encountered little opposition 
during the day, but patrols which had 
crossed the Snaky before dark reported find- 
ing many Japanese defensive positions on 
the eastern slopes of Lone Tree Hill. A gap 
which existed between the 1st and 3d Bat- 
talions was partially filled just before night- 
fall by elements of the 2d Battalion, which 
were sent forward late in the afternoon. Cas- 
ualties during the day were four killed and 
twenty-eight wounded. 

The 1st and 3d Battalions, 1st Infantry, 
moved across the Tor River in the morning 
of 20 June and took over the positions in 
the vicinity of Maffin No. 1 vacated by the 
20th Infantry. The 2d Battalion, 1st Infan- 
try, assumed responsibility for the protection 
of the bridgehead across the Tor. The regi- 
ment was to remain east of the Tirfoam in 
reserve on 21 June while the 20th Infantry 
moved on against Lone Tree Hill. 10 

Operations of the 20th Infantry during 
the morning of 2 1 June consisted principally 
of patrolling designed to locate enemy strong 
points on and around Lone Tree Hill. 11 The 



" Ibid.; 1st Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 11 Jun-16 Jul 44. 

11 Information in the rest of this section is from : 
Ltr, Sibert to Krueger, 23 Jun 44, in Alamo Rear 
Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 27-31 Jul 44; TTF G-2 
Jnl, 12-23 Jun 44; TTF G-3 Jnl, 12 Jun-18 Jul 
44; 1st Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 11 Jun-16 Jul 44: 20th 



268 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



1st and 3d Battalions undertook most of 
this scouting while the remainder of the 2d 
Battalion, together with the regimental An- 
titank Company, closed up on the 1 st. Com- 
panies A and B moved south of the main 
road through the defile toward Hill 225, 
and both units encountered strong opposi- 
tion. By the end of the day the 1st Battalion's 
positions were essentially the same as they 
had been in the morning, except that Com- 
pany B was south of the road and about 600 
yards distant from the rest of the battalion. 
The battalion's mission was primarily defen- 
sive: to probe Japanese defenses on the 
southern side of Lone Tree Hill and protect 
the south flank of the 2d and 3d Battalions 
as the latter units assaulted the hill. 

Patrols of the 3d Battalion reached the 
northeast face of Lone Tree Hill during the 
morning and observed enemy activity on the 
rough beach below Rocky Point. Other pa- 
trols, working toward the eastern slopes of 
the hill, brought back negative reports which 
contradicted those obtained at dusk the pre- 
vious afternoon. However, as a result of 
these negative reports, it was decided that 
the 3d Battalion should attack in force dur- 
ing the afternoon. At 1345, after a fifteen- 
minute artillery and 4.2-inch mortar prep- 
aration, one company moved across the 
Snaky River, immediately finding the 
twenty-foot cliff along the eastern side of 
the shelf which lay between the Snaky River 
and the central mass of Lone Tree Hill. The 
morning patrols had not, apparently, re- 
ported the existence of this cliff, and natu- 
rally it was not known that Japanese de- 

Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 14 Jun-16 Aug 44; TTF Opns 
Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44, pp. 5-6; 6th 
Inf Div Arty Opns Rpt Sarmi— Maffin Bay, 11 Jun- 
17 Jul 44, pp. 3-4; 20th Inf, The Battle of Lone 
Tree Hill, n. d., copy in OGMH files. Enemy infor- 
mation is from 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak 
(Rev), pp. 30-31. 



fenses were established along it. Machine 
gun and rifle fire from the 1st Battalion, 
224th Infantry, soon pinned down the 3d 
Battalion's leading platoon. 

The company commander quickly sent 
part of his unit northward to find the Japa- 
nese left flank. Moving around the northeast 
end of the shelf, this group discovered the 
beach entrance to the deep ravine between 
the western side of the shelf and Rocky 
Point. Progress into or across the ravine was 
impossible in the face of the intense Japa- 
nese small arms fire which greeted the ad- 
vancing American unit. Company B, 6th 
Engineers, then in the forward area to cut 
a road from the mouth of the Snaky River 
to Rocky Point, was brought up to the ravine 
to help clean out caves and crevices with 
flame throwers and demolitions, but could 
not reach the enemy positions through the 
continued machine gun, mortar, and rifle 
fire. Infantry bazooka squads also tried to 
blast the Japanese out of their caves but 
failed when their ammunition ran out. Since 
there was no time to bring additional rock- 
ets forward before dark, all elements of the 
3d Battalion and the engineer company 
were withdrawn to the east bank of the 
Snaky River for the night. The 20th Infan- 
try was to continue the assault on the mor- 
row with the 3d Battalion moving against 
Lone Tree Hill from the northeast, the 2d 
Battalion in reserve, and the 1st Battalion 
remaining in its holding position. 

American casualties during the day were 
two men killed and twenty-four wounded. 
Initially it was thought that some of these 
casualties had been caused by friendly mor- 
tar fire covering the 3d Battalion's patrol- 
ling. Later investigation proved, however, 
that the losses had been caused by enemy 
fire. Japanese artillery and mortars usually 
remained silent throughout the fighting on 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



269 



Lone Tree Hill except when American mor- 
tars and artillery began firing. The psycho- 
logical effect of this trick on the troops of the 
6th Division was obvious, and for a long 
while they thought that part of their losses 
resulted from friendly fire. It is probable 
that many Japanese were killed during the 
day but, because of the confused nature of 
the fighting along the cliff on the eastern 
shelf and in the ravine, the 3d Battalion 
could attempt no estimate of Japanese losses 
in its zone. The 1st Battalion estimated that 
its patrols south of Lone Tree Hill had killed 
about thirty-five of the enemy. 

Task force artillery and the 20th Infan- 
try's 81 -nuii. mortars fired on Lone Tree 
Hill intermittently throughout the night, 
concentrating on the Rocky Point area. 
Operations on 22 June started at 0800 when 
eighteen Wakde-based P— 47's strafed Lone 
Tree Hill, dropped full belly tanks, and set 
them afire. The air action, which ceased at 
0820, was followed by an intense artillery 
concentration, of ten minutes' duration, 
fired by two 105-mm. and one 155-mm. 
howitzer battalions. The artillery sent 720 
rounds of 105-mm. ammunition and 360 
rounds of 155-mm. shells into an area 400 
yards wide and 600 long on the northeast 
side of the hill. 

Infantry action started about 0830 with 
Company K, two platoons abreast, leading 
the advance and Company I following close 
behind. Company K approached the hill 
from the northeast and from a point on the 
beach just west of the deep ravine. Only 
scattered rifle fire marked the first part of 
the ascent, for the Japanese were stunned 
by the weight of the preparatory air and 
artillery fire. About 1115 the advance pla- 
toons had to seek cover from enemy light 
mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire, most 
of which seemed to originate in caves and 



crevices along the sides of the ravine. Com- 
pany I, which had been waiting in reserve 
on the beach, was now dispatched up the 
hill to reinforce Company K. The combined 
fire power of the two units was sufficient to 
drive the Japanese back into their caves, 
and the assault companies reached the top 
of Lone Tree Hill just south of Rocky Point 
at 1240. 

Company L, about 0930, had begun an 
attempt to reach the top of the hill from 
the southeast corner. The company passed 
through 1st Battalion units near the village 
at the entrance to the defile and pushed 
northwestward. Japanese infantrymen were 
seen moving about near the village, and 
Company M's 81 -mm. mortars were called 
upon to protect Company L's rear by lob- 
bing shells into the hamlet. Four tanks were 
also brought forward along the main road 
to aid in clearing the village and the ground 
between the settlement and Company L. 
Since marshy terrain and heavy under- 
growth prevented the tanks from accom- 
plishing their mission, Company F was 
called forward and attached to Company 
L to protect the latter's flanks and rear. 

Together the two companies tried to force 
their way up the southeast slope of Lone 
Tree Hill, but they were subjected to intense 
machine gun and rifle fire from the north- 
west, west, and southwest. The two units 
thereupon withdrew from that face, moved 
back to the eastern edge of the oval shelf, 
and marched north to the point at which 
Companies K and I had started up the hill. 
Company F followed K's route to the hilltop, 
meeting little opposition on the way. Com- 
pany L pushed across the ravine about 200 
yards south of F's line of march and, since 
the Japanese remained hidden in the ra- 
vine's many caves, had little difficulty reach- 
ing the top of the hill. By 1500 Companies 



270 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



F, I, K, L, and part of Company M had 
established a common perimeter near the 
north end of the hilltop. 

The 2d Battalion, 20th Infantry, relieved 
during the morning by the 2d Battalion of 
the 1st Infantry, had been sent forward 
about 1400 to complete the occupation of 
Lone Tree Hill. Following the route em- 
ployed by Companies F and L in the fore- 
noon, the battalion (less Company F) 
moved across the southern end of the shelf 
and along the southeastern slope. Advancing 
cautiously through heavily forested, tangled 
terrain, at 1700 the battalion reached the 
head of the wide draw which led to the nar- 
row central part of the hilltop. Little opposi- 
tion was encountered and the battalion 
moved up the hill and along the hill crest to 
a point about 400 yards south of the 3d Bat- 
talion. Increasingly strong enemy opposition 
made it impossible to close the gap between 
the two before dark. Hasty positions were 
set up for the night defenses. 

Despite the fact that part of Company K 
had been temporarily pinned down by en- 
emy fire during the morning, neither that 
unit nor Company I had had any real dif- 
ficulty reaching the top of Lone Tree Hill. 
Companies F and L, after they had changed 
their direction of attack, had also made 
their way to the top against negligible oppo- 
sition, and the 2d Battalion had been de- 
layed more by the terrain than by enemy 
action. For the second day in succession the 
task force commander had reason to believe 
that the Lone Tree Hill area was not 
strongly held, and he expected that the hill 
would be secured shortly. 

The 3d Battalion, during the afternoon, 
found indications that the Japanese had 
other plans. The battalion perimeter was 
within sight of the enemy's observation post, 
which was almost continuously manned 



although four or five Japanese were shot 
out of it in the course of the afternoon. So 
close was the observation post to the 3d 
Battalion's perimeter that friendly artillery 
was unable to fire on it, but well-directed 
enemy artillery fire, which harassed the 20th 
Infantry's rear installations, indicated that 
the Japanese were putting their observers to 
good use. There was also some reason to 
suspect that the many caves and crevices 
along the ravine and Rocky Point contained 
numerous enemy troops who had apparently 
deliberately permitted the 3d Battalion to 
reach the top of the hill without offering 
serious battle. 

The suspicion proved well founded. 
About 1730 approximately two companies 
of Japanese, under the personal leadership 
of Colonel Matsuyama, poured out of 
hidden positions on Rocky Point or in the 
ravine and fell upon the 3d Battalion's 
perimeter with suicidal fury. Confused fight- 
ing, sometimes hand-to-hand, continued 
well into the night, until it was thought that 
every Japanese soldier in the northern sec- 
tion of Lone Tree Hill must have been killed. 
Although the 2d Battalion's positions were 
not attacked, the unit could not move to 
the 3d Battalion's aid. Such a maneuver 
would have been foolhardy in the darkness 
and tangled undergrowth, and the 2d soon 
found that it, too, was surrounded. Thus, 
by 2400, the Japanese had completely re- 
versed the tactical situation atop Lone Tree 
Hill. Early in the afternoon the 20th In- 
fantry had been at the Japanese rear. Now 
the enemy was at the 20th Infantry's rear, 
had isolated both the 2d and 3d Battalions 
of that regiment, and had cut all lines of 
communication to the base of the hill. 

Casualties on the 22d could not be 
counted because of the confusion resulting 
from the night attack. However, it was esti- 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



271 



mated that about 30 Americans had been 
killed and another 100 wounded, most of 
them in the 3d Battalion, before the enemy 
attack waned at midnight. There were but 
40 known Japanese dead, the majority of 
whom had been counted by 1st Battalion 
patrols on the southern side of Lone Tree 
Hill., The number of the enemy killed by the 
3d Battalion after 1730 could not be esti- 
mated, but it is known that Colonel Matsu- 
yama was wounded during the action. 

Holding Lone Tree Hill 

The 3d Battalion expected that the enemy 
withdrawal during the night presaged re- 
organization for another attack. 12 This ex- 
pectation was correct, for Colonel Matsu- 
yama did have plans to continue the attack. 
On the 2 2d the two companies of the 2d 
Battalion, 224th Infantry, which had been 
east of the Tirfoam, had arrived to reinforce 
him, as had the 7th Company of the same 
regiment, previously on detached duty at an 
inland post. 

Action on the 23d began at dawn when 
Japanese troops, some of whom were using 
American weapons and wearing parts of 
American uniforms, attacked the 2d Bat- 
talion, 20th Infantry, from the deep ravine. 
The battalion initially held its fire, thinking 
that the enemy force might be a friendly 
patrol, and the Japanese were able to ad- 



11 Sources for this section arc : Ltr, Sibcrt to Kruc- 
ger, 23 Jun 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G— 3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 27-31 Jul 44; TTF G-2 Jnls, 12-23 Jun and 
24 Jun-2 Jul 44; TTF G-3 Jnl, 12 Jun- 18 Jul 44; 
1st Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 11 Jun-16 Jul 44; 20th Inf 
S-3 Per Rpts, 14 Jun-16 Aug 44; TTF Opns Rpt 
Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44, pp. 6-8; 6th Inf 
Div Arty Opns Rpt Sarmi-Maffin Bay, 11 Jun-17 
Jul 44, pp. 4-6 ; Rad, TTF to Alamo Adv Hq, Y- 
1268, 18 Jun 44, in TTF G-2 Jnl, 12-23 Jun 44; 
2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 31-32, 
34, 41. 



vance to within fifteen yards of the battalion 
lines before being recognized. It was an hour 
before the results of this error could be cor- 
rected — an hour during which both the 2d 
Battalion and the Japanese suffered heavy 
losses. The hour ended with an enemy 
retreat. 

At 0800 the 2d Battalion was instructed 
to make contact with the 3d, clear the Japa- 
nese from the rest of the northern section 
of the hilltop plateau, and form a two-bat- 
talion" perimeter. Moving north along the 
hill crest soon proved impracticable, for the 
Japanese held strong positions in the 400- 
yard interval which still separated the two 
battalions. The 2d Battalion therefore de- 
cided to bypass the opposition. The unit 
marched back down the hill, crossed the 
oval shelf, and turned north along the west 
bank of the Snaky. About 250 yards south 
of the beach, the battalion turned west and, 
at 1000, was held up by enemy fire from 
the same twenty-foot-high cliff which had 
stalled the 3d Battalion's attack on 21 June. 

The 2d Battalion then withdrew from the 
cliff north to the beach east of Rocky Point 
and reorganized. At 1 120 the movement up 
Lone Tree Hill was resumed, this time along 
the same route employed by Companies I 
and K on the previous day. The advance was 
opposed by enemy machine gun, mortar, 
artillery, and rifle fire, but the 2d Battalion, 
with Company G suffering especially 
"heavy casualties," 18 slowly fought its way 
upward by fire and movement. At 1400 the 
leading elements began reaching the top of 
the hill, but it was not until 1630 that the 
battalion had assembled in an organized 
perimeter. The new position was just north- 
west of the 3d Battalion's lines, overlooked 
the west cliff of Lone Tree Hill, and appar- 

" This statement is from a 20th Infantry S-3 
Periodic Report, but exact figures are not available. 



272 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ently was not connected with the 3d Battal- 
ion perimeter. The latter unit had held and 
strengthened its positions during the morn- 
ing while it sought cover from continuous 
Japanese mortar and rifle fire and awaited 
the arrival of reinforcements before begin- 
ning mopping-up operations. 

The 3d Battalion had received few sup- 
plies since reaching the top of Lone Tree 
Hill on 22 June. The unit had run out of 
water, and only a heavy rainfall during the 
night of 22-23 June had prevented thirst 
from becoming a major problem. To relieve 
this situation Company L, 1st Infantry, was 
ordered to take ammunition, water, and ra- 
tions to the hilltop plateau. The company 
received the order late on 22 June but man- 
aged to move only as far as the northeastern 
corner of Rocky Point before dark. At 0800 
the next morning the relief company started 
up the hill, meeting little opposition until 
it reached the top of Rocky Point. There it 
was pinned down as Japanese forces moved 
in behind it to cut the line of communica- 
tion down the hill. Company L soon ran 
out of ammunition for, in addition to the 
supplies, the men had carried to the hilltop 
only their loaded weapons, with no extra 
ammunition. Despite help from elements 
of the Antitank and Service Companies, 
20th Infantry, Company L was able to 
maintain only intermittent contact with the 
3d Battalion, 20th Infantry. 

It was not until late afternoon, after the 
2d Battalion, 20th Infantry, had arrived 
atop Lone Tree Hill that Company L, 1st 
Infantry, was relieved. By that time the com- 
pany had suffered many casualties and had 
lost much of the materiel it had been carry- 
ing up the hill. Neither the 2d nor 3d Bat- 
talions, 20th Infantry, received appreciable 
amounts of supplies during the day, and 
only the heroic efforts of small volunteer 



groups kept these units supplied with enough 
food and ammunition to carry on the fight. 
The 1st Infantry, to support the operations 
of the small carrying parties, sent two ma- 
chine gun platoons and two 37-mm. anti- 
tank guns forward to the foot of Rocky 
Point. With this cover the supply groups 
managed to fight their various ways up and 
down the hill and evacuated 300 wounded 
men during the day. 

The evening of 23 June brought another 
224th Infantry counterattack which was 
aimed at both the 2d and 3d Battalions' 
perimeters. These attacks came from the 
east side of Lone Tree Hill, the Japanese ap- 
parently having moved around the north 
side of the hill along Rocky Point. The 
initial assault culminated in a bayonet 
charge, which was repulsed by rifle and 
machine gun fire with heavy losses to the 
Japanese. Despite this defeat, small groups 
of the enemy continued suicidal attacks 
throughout the night of 23-24 June. 

It would probably have been much easier 
to bypass Lone Tree Hill, isolate it, and 
starve out the Japanese garrison, but there 
were two reasons why General Sibert did 
not do so. First, as long as the Japanese held 
Lone Tree Hill, which dominated the 
Maffin Bay area, the shores of that bay 
could not be safely employed for a staging 
area. Second, operations from 20 to 22 June 
had apparently convinced the task force 
commander that Lone Tree Hill was not 
strongly held, and he had therefore ordered 
the frontal assault. That this estimate was in 
error was realized when dawn of 23 June 
brought with it the information that the 2d 
and 3d Battalions of the 20th Infantry were 
cut off atop Lone Tree Hill. When the hill 
had still not been captured by dark on 23 
June the general decided to outflank it by 
a shore-to-shore maneuver and then con- 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



273 



tinue the attack from both west and east. He 
ordered the 1st Infantry, reinforced by the 
6th Reconnaissance Troop, to seize the 
beach just west of Rocky Point on the morn- 
ing of 24 June. The regiment was to clean 
out the western side of Lone Tree Hill and 
prevent any more Japanese reinforcements 
from reaching it. 

For the shore-to-shore maneuver, the 1st 
Infantry chose Companies K and I. Com- 
pany K boarded ten LVT's at the beach 
near the Tirfoam River and moved to the 
west side of Rocky Point. The LVT's were 
protected by the 6th Reconnaissance Troop 
aboard thirteen LVT(A)'s armed with 
37-mm. guns. Both groups of amphibian 
vehicles were fired on by Japanese 75-mm. 
guns emplaced on Rocky Point, but Com- 
pany K made a safe landing at 0900 hours. 
Attempting to move inland, the company 
was immediately pinned down on the nar- 
row beach by enemy fire of all types which 
originated along the west face of Lone Tree 
Hill and Rocky Point. 

The LVT's, again protected by the 
LVT(A)'s, made a return trip with Com- 
pany I, 1st Infantry, which landed on the 
right of Company K at 1200. About 1330 
four tanks of Company C, 44th Tank Bat- 
talion, transported by LCT's, arrived at the 
hard-pressed beachhead, which was sub- 
jected to ever increasing machine gun and 
rifle fire. Upon their arrival the tanks cov- 
ered the evacuation of wounded and the 
landing of supplies by firing on Japanese 
positions in the swampy woods between the 
beach and the west cliff of Lone Tree Hill. 
One LVT, loaded with wounded men, was 
sunk about 175 yards off Rocky Point by 
Japanese 75-mm. fire. All the men were 
rescued by an LVT (A), which succeeded 
in silencing the enemy artillery weapon. 

Companies I and K were unable to make 



any progress inland. Japanese defensive po- 
sitions in the swampy woodland, occupied 
by elements of the 223d Infantry:, prevented 
an advance. The four tanks attempted to 
move off the beach to attack these positions 
but found that they could not negotiate the 
low clay and rock bank behind the shore 
line. The tanks remained on the beach for 
the night to protect the exposed infantry- 
men, but the 6th Reconnaissance Troop 
returned to the vicinity of the Tirfoam River 
mouth at darkness. 

On top of Lone Tree Hill during the day 
the 2d and 3d Battalions, 20th Infantry, in 
the face of enemy mortar, rifle, and machine 
gun fire, began to clear the Japanese from 
the many caves and crevices on Rocky 
Point, the deep ravine east of the point, 
and the hilltop plateau. For the mission of 
clearing Rocky Point, assault teams were 
formed by personnel of the Antitank Com- 
pany, Headquarters Company of the 2d 
Battalion, Company H, and a few men from 
Company F. Elements of the 3d Battalion, 
1st Infantry, including most of Company L, 
also were engaged in the mopping up. The 
assault teams were armed with a variety 
of weapons, including flame throwers, 
bazookas, rifle grenades, hand grenades, 
BAR's, TSMG's, high explosives, and even 
gasoline. While this action continued, the 
2d Battalion, 20th Infantry, aided by Com- 
pany L of the 1st Infantry, secured the 
supply route up the hill. 

By nightfall there were definite signs that 
Japanese resistance in the northern section 
of Lone Tree Hill was weakening, and dur- 
ing the night of 24—25 June there were no 
major counterattacks, although harassing 
mortar, grenade, and rifle fire continued. 
Headquarters of the 3d Battalion, 20th In- 
fantry, and Company M of the same regi- 
ment moved across the Snaky River in the 



274 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



afternoon and established a perimeter on the 
beach at the east side of Rocky Point, from 
which Company M's heavy weapons could 
aid in the mopping-up operations. 

Despite the weakening of Japanese resist- 
ance, the 2d and 3d Battalions, 20th Infan- 
try, and Company L, 1st Infantry, contin- 
ued to suffer heavy casualties during the 
day. At dusk 2d Battalion effectives num- 
bered only 330 men, and the 3d Battalion 
had only 322 effectives left. The losses of 
Companies I and K, 1st Infantry, could not 
be' ascertained because not all the wounded 
and dead had been evacuated and because 
communications had broken down at inter- 
vals throughout the day. However, it was 
k^iown that at least 9 men had been killed 
a^id 37 wounded, and that the dead in- 
cluded 2 Company K officers. 

The next day, 25 June, the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, 20th Infantry, now reinforced by 
both Companies L and M, 1st Infantry, and 
Company B, 6th Engineers, continued clear- 
ing Rocky Point, the deep ravine, the north- 
ern part of the hilltop plateau, and the east- 
ern shelf, where a few scattered Japanese 
still held positions along the twenty-f oot-high 
cliff. Flame throwers, demolition charges, 
bazookas, and hand grenades all proved 
successful in eliminating Japanese resistance 
and sealing or clearing caves and crevices. 
The task was easier on the 25th, for the Jap- 
anese slowly gave up the fight and were 
killed or sealed off in their caves. Casualties 
continued to mount — the 2d Battalion, 20th 
Infantry, had only about two hundred effec- 
tives by the end of the day — but many of the 
losses were not due to Japanese action. 
Many men were evacuated over the now 
secured supply route to the top of the hill as 
they fell from exhaustion or became sick. 

On the beach west of Rocky Point Com- 
panies I and K, 1st Infantry, had little suc- 



cess in expanding their beachhead. The 
tanks proved useless in the area and were 
therefore withdrawn to Maffin No. 1. The 
two infantry companies, pinned down dur- 
ing the morning, kept up a continuous 
mortar barrage against Japanese positions 
in the swamp to the south, against the west- 
ern cliff of Lone Tree Hill, and, when cer- 
tain such fire would not endanger troops 
atop the hill, against the northwest corner 
of Rocky Point. This mortar fire, coupled 
with the operations on the plateau, began to 
have the desired effect during the afternoon, 
and Companies I and K were able to push 
their defenses beyond the narrow beachhead 
slightly southward and westward and to- 
ward the shore beneath Rocky Point. Once 
or twice during the afternoon, patrols were 
able to reach the top of Lone Tree Hill from 
the northwest corner of the point and estab- 
lished contact with 20th Infantry units. 
Late in the afternoon Company M, 1st In- 
fantry, operating from the east side of the 
point, managed to push a patrol around the 
shore to establish contact with Company K. 

Though Companies I and K could find 
little tangible evidence of the results of their 
operations, they had actually wiped out the 
223d Infantry's defense force in the area 
just west of Lone Tree Hill. By dusk on the 
25th, it had become obvious that the com- 
bined efforts of the 3d Battalion, 1st Infan- 
try, and the 2d and 3d Battalions, 20th 
Infantry, had either cleared out the north- 
ern half of Lone Tree Hill or had forced 
the Japanese to withdraw. The latter con- 
clusion was the more nearly correct. The 
36th Division decided on 25 June to with- 
draw the bulk of the Center and Right Sec- 
tor Forces west of the Woske River and 
establish new defensive positions, thereby 
keeping the 223 d Infantry, the bulk of 
which had not been committed to action in 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



275 



the Lone Tree Hill area, more or less intact. 
Only the remnants of the 224th Infantry 
were to remain east of the Woske, and they 
were to withdraw into rough terrain south- 
west of Mt. Saksin. 

At nightfall on the 25th, General Sibert 
estimated that his three forward battalions 
had lost approximately 140 men killed and 
850 wounded and evacuated, including 
those who had to be sent back to the rear 
because of wounds, sickness, heat exhaus- 
tion, or psychoneurotic disorders. Known 
Japanese dead in the northern part of the 
hill numbered 344, but it could not be esti- 
mated how many more had been thrown 
over the west cliff, sealed in caves, or carried 
off by withdrawing remnants of the Japa- 
nese defense force. According to Japanese 
sources, the Japanese had lost about 500 
men killed and another 300 wounded in the 
Lone Tree Hill-Hill 225-Mt. Saksin area. 

By noon on 25 June it was apparent to 
General Sibert that only mopping-up opera- 
tions remained to be accomplished on and 
near Lone Tree Hill. For all practical pur- 
poses, that area had been secured. 

Final Operations in the Wakde-Sarmi Area 
Mopping Up by the 6th Division 

As the 2d and 3d Battalions, 20th Infan- 
try, were in no condition to undertake the 
mopping up, General Sibert decided to re- 
lieve those two units with the 3d Battalion, 
63d Infantry. 14 The latter unit and the 3d 

11 Information in this subsection is based on : TTF 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44, pp. 5- 
9; 6th Div Arty Opns Rpt Sarmi-Maffin Bay, 11 
Jun-17 Jul 44, pp. 6-7; TTF G-3 Jnl, 12 Jun-18 
Jul 44; TTF G-2 Jnl, 24 Jun-2 Jul 44; 1st Inf S-3 
Per Rpts, 11 Jul-16 Jul 44; 20th Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 
12 Jun-16 Aug 44; 63d Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 17 Jun- 
17 Jul 44; Ltr, Sibert to Krueger, 26 Jun 44, in 
Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 27-31 Jul 



Battalion, 1st Infantry, were to clear the 
Lone Tree Hill area and all enemy west to 
the Woske River and inland for a distance 
of 800 yards. The 1st Battalion, 20th Infan- 
try, was to continue its holding mission south 
of Lone Tree Hill and, in co-operation with 
the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry, was to clear 
the defile, Hill 225, Mt. Saksin, and Hill 
265, which lay about 1 ,000 yards southwest 
of Hill 225. The relief of the 2d and 3d Bat- 
talions, 20th Infantry, was accomplished by 
1500 on 26 June. To that time the regiment 
had lost 83 men killed, 484 wounded, and 
10 missing. The unit estimated that it had 
killed 781 Japanese, by far the majority of 
them in operations on Lone Tree Hill dur- 
ing the period 22 through 25 June. 

On 27 June the 3d Battalion, 63d Infan- 
try, began mopping up on the top of Lone 
Tree Hill. These operations proved more 
difficult than anticipated, for a few Japanese 
machine gun nests were still active on the 
southern section. But by dusk on 30 June, no 
more live Japanese were to be found. On the 
same day the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 
pushed through the defile south of the hill 
and found only a few stragglers in its zone. 
A continuous perimeter, running from the 
western exit of the defile north along the 
main road to the beach, was now established 
around Lone Tree Hill. 

During operations at the Lone Tree Hill 
area from 20 through 30 June, American 
losses were approximately 150 killed, 550 
wounded, and 400-500 evacuated from the 
forward area as a result of sickness, non- 
combat injuries, and combat fatigue. Dur- 
ing the same period, the Tornado Task 
Force claimed, 942 dead Japanese were 
actually counted in the area from the Snaky 

44; Ltrs, Sibert to Krueger, 27 Jun-10 Jul 44, in 
Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 17-20 Jul 
44; Opns of Yuki Group, p. 18; 2d Army Opns at 
Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 34—37. 



276 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



River west to the Woske and from the beach 
to the southern slopes of the defile, and the 
Tornado Task Force estimated that 400 
more had been sealed in caves at Lone Tree 
Hill. How these casualties were divided 
among the Japanese units is impossible to 
ascertain, but it is probable that at least 
750 of the dead were members of the 224th 
Infantry and most of the rest from other 
units of the Right Sector Force. The 16th 
Field Airdrome Construction Unit, for in- 
stance, had been practically wiped out, as 
had the two companies of the 223d Infantry 
which had been placed under Colonel 
Matsuyama's command. That over 1,300 
Japanese were killed in the coastal area from 
the Tor to the Woske by 30 June does not 
appear to be an exaggerated claim. 

Although clearing enemy forces from the 
Lone Tree Hill area practically assured the 
security of the Maffin Bay staging area, 
General Sibert believed that in order to 
make the region entirely safe, it would be 
necessary to drive the enemy out of the ter- 
rain between the Woske and Tor for a dis- 
tance of at least 3,000 yards (about one and 
three-fourths miles) inland. Operations for 
this purpose began on 1 July when the 1st 
Infantry extended the perimeter along the 
coast to the Woske. On 4 July elements of 
the 63d Infantry occupied Hill 225 and on 
the next day seized the crest of Mt. Saksin. 
Both these terrain features were found to 
contain numerous well-organized, strong 
defensive positions, all of which had been 
abandoned. Hill 265, southwest of Hill 225, 
proved a tougher nut to crack because of 
Japanese opposition and terrain difficulties. 
But on 8 and 9 July the 1st Battalions of 
the 1st and 63d Infantry Regiments finally 
secured the hill crest, which had been held 
by elements of the 224th Infantry. With the 



fall of Hill 265, the last enemy strong point 
in the Maffin Bay region had been taken. 

Meanwhile, the remaining Japanese 
forces were busily withdrawing west of the 
Woske. On 12 July General Sibert sent a 
reconnaissance in force (comprising Com- 
pany A, 1st Infantry, the 6th Reconnais- 
sance Troop, and elements of Company C, 
44th Tank Battalion) across the river. This 
force moved rapidly beyond Sawar Drome 
and across Sawar Creek, which lay a little 
over three miles beyond the Woske. At the 
banks of Metimedan Creek, about 1,500 
yards beyond Sawar Creek, the force was 
halted by Japanese fire from positions held 
by the Left Sector U nit and the 3d Battalion, 
223d Infantry, along the Metimedan and 
from highlands beyond that stream. The 
6th Division group returned to the Woske 
before dark, there to receive the welcome 
news that elements of the 31st Infantry 
Division were about to reach Maffin Bay to 
relieve the 6th Division. 

The End of the Operation 

When General Krueger chose the 6th 
Division to seize an air-base site on the 
Vogelkop, he decided to retain one of the 
division's regimental combat teams at 
Wakde-Sarmi as a reserve. But even if this 
combat team were not required on the 
Vogelkop, it would hardly suffice to defend 
the Maffin Bay-Wakde area and, at the 
same time, undertake the offensive patrol- 
ling necessary to maintain contact with 
Japanese forces in the area and to keep those 
forces away from Maffin Bay. Both the 25th 
and 33d Infantry Divisions could be moved 
to Maffin Bay, but neither could arrive by 
15 July, when the 6th Division had to start 
loading for the Vogelkop operation. How- 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 

ever, the 31st Infantry Division, which was 
scheduled to stage at Hollandia for another 
operation in September, could be moved to 
Maffin Bay by the 15th. General Krueger 
therefore recommended that the 31st Divi- 
sion (less the 124th Regimental Combat 
Team, at Aitape) be sent to Maffin Bay. 
General MacArthur quickly approved this 
proposal. 15 

The 31st Division began unloading at 
Maffin Bay on 14 July and by the 18th, 
when the division commander, Maj. Gen. 
John C. Persons, assumed the position of 
Commander, Tornado Task Force, all the 
6th Division, with the exception of the 20th 
Regimental Combat Team, had been re- 
lieved. The latter unit remained attached to 
the 31st Division until 21 August and left 
the area for the Vogelkop on the 26th. The 
remainder of the 6th Division began leaving 
on 27 July. Except for the 1 24th Regimental 
Combat Team, the 31st Division closed in 
the Wakde-Sarmi area by 15 August. 16 

The two regimental combat teams of the 
31st Division, the 155th and the 167th, 
which operated at Wakde-Sarmi had no 
previous combat experience but received 
much valuable training in a series of patrol 
actions, company-sized scouting missions, 
and battalion reconnaissances in force. Gen- 
eral Persons wanted to mount an offensive 
to drive the Japanese from a main line of 
resistance which they had established in the 
low hills between Metimedan Creek and 
Sarmi, but the demands for labor at the 
Maffin Bay staging area and the necessity 
for committing many troops to the defense 
of that area made it impossible to assemble 
sufficient strength for such an attack. Then, 

" Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 26. 

" Ibid., pp. 27-28; TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 
12 Jun-18 Jul 44, pp. 9-10; TTF [31st Inf Div] 
Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 18 Jul-1 Sep 44, pp. 2-4. 



277 

by the time the 6th Division's requirements 
had been met, the 31st Division itself had 
to begin preparations for another operation. 

The 31st Division therefore had to con- 
fine itself principally to its patrolling mis- 
sions, both west and east of the perimeter. 
Patrols east of the perimeter were sent out 
to hunt down stragglers from the Japanese 
Hollandia garrison, and most of them, com- 
prising armed natives of the Wakde-Sarmi 
area, were led by a Dutch officer, 1st Lt. 
C. J. Sneeuwjagt. Meanwhile, work went on 
at the Maffin Bay staging area, and during 
the period 1 8 July-3 1 August there was un- 
loaded at Maffin Bay a daily average of 
2,500 tons of various supplies. During the 
same period the 31st Division lost 39 men 
killed, 195 wounded, 34 injured, and 3 
missing. The division killed 294 Japanese, 
found 497 dead, and captured 14 others," 

Since the 31st Division would need pro- 
tection as it staged for its mid-September 
invasion of Morotai Island, northwest of the 
Vogelkop, General Krueger recommended 
to General MacArthur that a regimental 
combat team of the 33d Infantry Division 
(another unit without combat experience) 
be moved from eastern New Guinea to Maf- 
fin Bay. The theater commander approved 
this suggestion, and the 123d Regimental 
Combat Team, under Brig. Gen. Donald J. 
Myers (also assistant division commander), 
arrived at Maffin Bay on 1 September. The 
next day General Krueger declared that the 
Wakde-Sarmi operation was over. 18 

" TTF Opns Rpt Wakde-Sarmi, 18 Jul-1 Sep 44, 
pp. 1 15th Inf Opns Rpt MafEn Bay-Toem, pp. 
1—2; Ltrs, Gen Persons to Gen Krueger, 18 and 20 
Jul 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl 21-23 Jul 44; 
Ltr, Gen Persons to Gen Ward, 6 Nov 50, no sub, 
in OCMH files. 

"Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 28; 
Alamo Force FO 23, 21 Aug 44, in Alamo Rear Hq 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 16-24 Aug 44. As usual Gen- 
eral Krueger closed the operation for the purpose 



278 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Epilogue 

All elements of the 31st Division Left Maf- 
fin Bay early in September and on the 25th 
of the month the Tornado Task Force was 
disbanded as such, Headquarters, 123d 
Regimental Combat Team, assuming all 
operational and administrative duties in the 
area. Late in September the Allied Air 
Forces began to close out the Wakde Island 
air base and to move its men and equipment 
forward until, by December, the Wakde 
field was relegated to the status of an 
emergency strip. 19 

In October, command of all American 
forces left in the Wakde-Sarmi area passed 
from General Krueger to the recently estab- 
lished U. S. Eighth Army, which was com- 
manded by Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, 
formerly the commander of the Reckless 
Task Force and I Corps. The 123d Regi- 
mental Combat remained in the region until 
relieved by a composite battalion combat 
team from the 93d Infantry Division on 26 
January 1945. The 93d Division elements 
undertook some local security patrolling, 
but their main mission was to speed the 
evacuation of remaining supplies from -the 
Maffin Bay staging area. This job was fin- 
ished by 6 February, when all the remaining 
troops left the mainland for Wakde Island. 
One company of the 93d Division remained 
on Wakde, sending a few amphibious pa- 
trols to the mainland, until the first week in 
October 1945. Then the company — the last 



of ending certain requirements for historical records. 
Again, this termination coincided with an adminis- 
trative change in the area concerned, for on 1 Sep- 
tember General Myers assumed the duties of Com- 
mander, Tornado Task Force, in place of General 
Persons. 

™ 123d RCT Opns Maffin Bay, 1 Sep 44-27 Jan 
45, pp. 1—2. Information on closing Wakde was fur- 
nished by Capt. B. L. Mortensen (USAF), Air Hist 
Gp, Hq USAF, 22 Nov 48. 



American troops in the area — left to join its 
division in the Philippines. 2 " 

The Results of the Wakde-Sarmi Operation 

Though the importance of the Wakde- 
Sarmi operation cannot be measured in 
terms of casualties, the casualty figures are 
of interest. From 17 May through 1 Sep- 
tember American losses in the area were 
approximately 400 men killed, 1,500 
wounded or injured in action, and 15 miss- 
ing. 21 During die same period about 3,870 
Japanese had been killed in the area and 51 
Japanese had been taken prisoner. How 
many more of the original Japanese garri- 
son of some 1 1,000 had died of sickness and 
starvation, or had been buried in caves at 
Lone Tree Hill, could not be determined. 
It was estimated, however, that as of 1 
September only 2,000 effective Japantse 
combat troops were left in the Wakde- 
Sarmi area. 22 Much more important than 



20 368th RCT Opns Rpt, 5 Jan 44-1 Sep 45, pp. 
3-9; 368th Inf Opns Rpt Maffin Bay, 19-24 Mar 
45, pp. 1—3. One other infantry unit also spent a 
little time at Maffin Bay. This was a battalion of the 
136th Infantry, 33d Division, which spent about a 
month, September-October 1944, working as a labor 
organization at the Maffin Bay staging area. 

21 TTF G-3 Per Rpt 107, 1 Sep 44; TTF G-l Per 
Rpts 15 and 16, 30 Aug and 5 Sep 44, respectively; 
TTF G-l Sum, 18 Jul-1 Sep 44, p. 2. The G-l and 
G-3 figures do not agree and cannot be reconciled. 
Furthermore, various sets of G— 3 figures are mu- 
tually irreconcilable as are different sets of G-l fig- 
ures. The figures given in the text are the author's 
approximations from the sources cited. 

a Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 57, 30 Aug 44, 
copy in G-2 DofA files; Ltr, Persons to Ward, 6 
Nov 50; 123d RCT Opns Rpt Maffin Bay, 1 Sep 
44-27 Jan 45, p. 2- The last Alamo Force figures for 
Japanese casualties (from Alamo Force G-2 Wkly 
Rpt 61,4 Oct 44, copy in G-2 DofA files) are 3,963 
Japanese killed and 55 captured. In addition, ac- 
cording to various sources, there were 2 Korean, 2 
Javanese, 1 Chinese, and 36 Formosan prisoners. 
Total known casualties were thus 4,059. Colonel 
Yoshino, Colonel Matsuyama, and General Yamada 



LONE TREE HILL AND BEYOND 



279 



the enemy casualties was the fact that two 
reinforced Japanese regimental combat 
teams had been destroyed as effective fight- 
ing forces and eliminated as a threat in the 
Southwest Pacific. 

In return for their losses, the Allies had 
obtained a valuable staging and air-base site. 
The Wakde Island airdrome quickly proved 
its value by enabling the Allied Air Forces 
to support not only operations within the 
Southwest Pacific but also those in the Cen- 
tral Pacific. The Fifth Air Force flew bom- 
bardment missions from Wakde against 
Biak, Noemfoor, enemy installations on the 
Vogelkop, Halmahera, Morotai, and, in the 
Central Pacific Area, against the Palaus and 
other islands in the Carolines. Fifth Air 
Force planes and Seventh Fleet land-based 
reconnaissance bombers from Wakde made 
substantial contributions to the success of 
the Central Pacific's mid-June invasion of 
the Marianas by striking enemy air and fleet 
installations in the Palaus and reporting the 
movements of Japanese fleet units within 
flying range. Since the Japanese fields on 
Biak were not captured in time for South- 
west Pacific aircraft to undertake from that 
island any missions in support of the Mari- 
ana operation, the Wakde field had to carry 
a far greater load than was originally in- 
tended for it. Finally, from Wakde, Seventh 
Fleet PB4Y's initiated the first regular air 
reconnaissance of islands in the Philippines 
since early 1942. 

survived the war, but what happened to General 
Tagami cannot be ascertained from available docu- 
ments. 



The Fifth Air Force controlled operations 
from Wakde until late August, when the 
Thirteenth Air Force took over the field. 
The latter unit afterwards supported the 
mid-September invasions of Morotai and 
the Palaus with numerous bombing and re- 
connaissance missions from Wakde. 23 

For ground forces, the Wakde-Sarmi 
area proved equally valuable. In operations 
there the 6th Infantry Division, the 31st 
Infantry Division (less one regimental com- 
bat team), the 123d Regimental Combat 
Team of the 33d Infantry Division, part of 
the 158th Regimental Combat Team, and 
innumerable attached units received their 
first combat experience. The value of the 
area for training was thus obvious, but the 
region was equally valuable as a staging 
base. The whole or parts of five different 
task forces — sent to Biak, Noemfoor, the 
Vogelkop Peninsula, and the Philippines — 
were staged from the Arare— Toem beaches 
or the shores of Maffin Bay. Had available 
assault shipping been used for long trips 
from eastern New Guinea bases to objec- 
tives beyond Wakde, the pace of operations 
in the Southwest Pacific would certainly 
have been slowed. Instead, many units were 
moved to Maffin Bay by noncombatant ves- 
sels, picked up there by assault ships, and 
taken on to new objectives to the north and 
west, the nearest of which was Biak Island. 24 

M Information on Allied Air Forces use of Wakde 
was provided by Capt. B. L. Mortensen, Air Hist 
Gp, Hq USAF, 22 Nov 48. 

"Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, p. 28; 
TTF Opns Rpt -Wakde-Sarmi, 12 Jun-18 Jul 44, 
pp. 9-10. 



CHAPTER XII 



Biak: The Plan, the Landing, 
and the Enemy 



When, on 10 May 1944, General 
Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, 
changed the original concept of the Sarmi- 
Wakde— Biak plan no significant changes 
were made in the assignment of units to the 
operations for the seizure of Wakde and 
Biak Islands. The 163d Regimental Com- 
bat Team of the 41st Infantry Division was 
ordered to capture Wakde Island and the 
adjacent New Guinea mainland beginning 
on 17 May. Ten days later, on 27 May, y the 
remainder of the 41st Division was to land 
on Biak Island, 180 miles northwest of 
Wakde. The target date for the landings at 
Biak was designated Z Day. 

The Biak Plan 

The Objective 

Biak is shaped roughly like an old-fash- 



ioned high-topped shoe. 1 (Map 13) The 



1 Information in this section is based principally 
on : Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, pp. 6-7 ; 
Hurricane Task Force [41st Inf Div] Opns Rpt 
Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 3; CTF 77 [Comdr, 
Biak Attack Force] Opns Rpt Biak, p. 3. With 
regard to terrain on Biak it is necessary to bear in 
mind that many of Biak's coral ridges are very 
similar to levees, while many others are actually 
steps of a series of terraces which rise to inland 
heights. But the Allied forces which fought at Biak 
usually referred to all terrace steps or levee-like for- 



sole is on the south, the back of the shoe on 
the west, and the instep runs southeast to 
northwest. Off the northwest corner of Biak 
(and about one third its size) lies Soepiori 
Island. The two are separated by a small 
creek-like strait. Off southeastern Biak lie 
a number of islets, including Owi, Aoeki, 
Mios Woendi, and others of the Padaido 
Group. In May 1944 Biak's principal towns 
lay along its southern shore. About four- 
teen miles west of the southeast tip was Bos- 
nek, prewar administrative and commercial 
center. 

Biak was formed as the result of under- 
water disturbances which in prehistoric 
times had brought part of the ocean's floor 
above the surface. Much of the island is cut 
by broken coral terraces, ridges, and shelves 
which in the course of centuries acquired a 
thick cover of tropical rain forest and dense 
jungle undergrowth. There are some exten- 
sive inland flat areas at the southeastern 
third of the island. Little fresh water is 
readily available on Biak, since most of the 
streams run through underground channels 
that drain even the heaviest rainfall from the 
surface. The island lacks good harbors, 



mations as ridges, and the latter term is generally 
employed in these chapters. The term terrace is gen- 
erally reserved for flat though sometimes gradually 
sloping areas between the steps or ridges. 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 281 





SCHOUTEN ISLANDS 




IO o to 

WILES 


\ Q SOEPIORI V*^ \ 




^\ ^ x/ \ y* 




\ w N 

<m«w Barf""" \ \ 




f 8 l f A k 

r' v 




\ 1 / 
\ X w',- i BOSN£K -jfT , 


o-.i.<7 ^V^? ° 15 


M.osWoendi l/'jO g <j| * . 




PAOAIOO ISLANDS 



almost all its shore line being fringed by 
rough coral reefs. 

A high, rough, and narrow coral ridge, 
lying in front of a generally flat inland ter- 
race in levee-like fashion, parallels Biak's 
southern shore from a point about five miles 
east of Bosnek to Mokmer, a village loc ated 



ten miles west of Bosnek. (Map 14) The 
seaward face of this ridge is from 180 to 250 
feet high, while its landward slope rises only 
100 feet or so above the flat but rough-sur- 
faced inland terrace. Near Mokmer the 
coral ridge turns northward and inland for 
about a mile and a half, and then west again 
toward Biak's southwestern corner. At 
Parai, some 2,000 yards east of Mokmer, 
one spur of this coastal ridge comes down 
almost to the shore line to form a twenty- 
foot-high cliff. This cliff runs along the 



water line from Parai to a point about 1,000 
yards west of Mokmer. 

The turning of the main coastal ridge 
combines with a protrusion of the coast line 
beginning near Parai to form a plain about 
eight miles long and up to one and a half 
miles wide. The Japanese had begun to con- 
struct airfields on this plain late in 1 943, and 
by April 1944 had completed two strips. 
The most easterly was Mokmer Drome, near 
the village of Mokmer. About two and one- 
half miles west was Sorido Drome, located 
near the village of the same name. Both 
these strips were close to the southern shore 
of Biak. Between them, but about three 
quarters of a mile inland, was Borokoe 
Drome, which became operational early in 
May 1944. A site for a fourth airfield had 
been surveyed on flat land north of the coral 



282 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




MAP 14 

Note the location of the coral ridge line in relation to the coast and in relation to 
the plain upon which Mokmer, Sorido, and Borokoe Dromes were constructed. 



ridge behind Bosnek, and for a fifth between 
Sorido and Borokoe Dromes. 

There were few good localities for am- 
phibious assaults along the shores of Biak, 
and the best lay far from the airstrips. 
Since these airfields were the principal Allied 
objectives, it was necessary to choose rela- 
tively poor landing points in order to put 
assault forces ashore close to the fields. 
Alamo Force knew that reasonably good 
beaches, though fronted by coral reefs, were 
located at Bosnek, Mokmer, and along 
the coast between those villages. But the 
Mokmer area was known to be the most 
heavily defended on Biak. It would be fool- 



hardy to land at the point of the enemy's 
greatest strength if other usable beaches 
could be found at near-by but more lightly 
defended areas. East from Mokmer, coral 
cliffs or mangrove swamps lie immediately 
behind the beach. These obstacles would 
prevent a landing force from maneuvering 
or finding room to disperse its supplies. The 
lessons of the Hollandia campaign were 
fresh in the minds of planners, who had no 
desire to find the troubles of the 24th Di- 
vision at Tanahmerah Bay or those of the 
41st Division at Humboldt Bay repeated on 
Biak. From aerial photographs, Bosnek ap- 
peared to be the point nearest to Mokmer 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



283 




/£ Jahnaionm 



Drome where cliffs or swamps did not back 
the beach. It was also known that some 
roads or trails led both inland and along the 
coast in both directions from Bosnek. More- 
over, at Bosnek two possibly usable jetties 
led to deep water beyond the coral reef 
which fringed the entire southern coast. 

The men planning the Biak operation 
could obtain little definite information 
about this fringing reef, which was esti- 
mated to vary from 200 to 600 feet in 
width. According to aerial reconnaissance, 
much of the reef was dry at low water, but 
no information was available concerning the 
amount of water over the reef at high tide. 



In any case, reef conditions off Bosnek ap- 
peared to be no worse than elsewhere along 
the south coast of Biak. Since this was true, 
and because jetties, apparent lack of strong 
enemy defensive installations, and maneu- 
ver room on shore offered advantages not 
found any place else, General Krueger, in 
agreement with the air and naval com- 
manders, decided that the initial landing 
would be made at Bosnek. 

Organization, Logistics, and 
Intelligence 

The organization designated to secure 
Biak was named the Hurricane Task Force, 



284 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the principal combat component of which 
was the 41st Infantry Division, less the 163d 
Regimental Combat Team. Both the task 
force and the division were commanded by 
Maj. Gen. Horace H. Fuller, who had com- 
manded a similar organization at Humboldt 
Bay. For Biak, the 41st Division was rein- 
forced by two field and two antiaircraft ar- 
tillery battalions, a 4.2-inch mortar com- 
pany, a medium tank company (less one 
platoon), an engineer boat and shore regi- 
ment (less one boat company), and a num- 
ber of antiaircraft batteries. Service troops 
assigned to the Hurricane Task Force, in 
addition to those organic to the 41st Divi- 
sion, were three engineer aviation battalions 
(for airfield construction work), other mis- 
cellaneous engineer units, and many medi- 
cal, quartermaster, and signal corps organi- 
zations. 2 

Control of the amphibious phases of the 
operation was vested in Rear Adm. William 
M. Fechteler (USN) as the Commander, 
Attack Force. Admiral Fechteler divided his 
combat vessels into four support groups, 
which totaled 2 heavy cruisers, 3 light cruis- 
ers, and 21 destroyers. Assault shipping, 
comprising 5 APD's, 8 LST's, 8 LCT's, and 
15 LCI's, was placed in a separate unit 
which Admiral Fechteler designated the 
Main Body. Smaller craft, such as LVT's, 
LVT(A)'s, DUKW's, and LCVP's were to 
be carried to Biak aboard LST's and APD's. 
A Special Service Unit of the Main Body 
contained 4 SC's, 3 rocket-equipped LCI's, 
1 LCI carrying underwater demolition 
teams and their equipment, and 1 seagoing 
tug ( ATF ) . The Special Service Unit, 
among other duties, was to provide close 
support and control for landing waves. A 
naval beach party, which was to control the 

! HTF FO 1, 15 May 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 
Jul Wakde-Biak, 24-25 May 44. 



landing of troops and supplies once the first 
waves were ashore, was also part of the At- 
tack Force. 

The First Reinforcement Group, consist- 
ing of 3 LST's and 8 LCI's, protected by 3 
destroyers and 2 destroyer escorts, was to 
arrive at Biak on 28 May, Z plus 1 . On the 
next day the Second Reinforcement Group, 
made up of 7 LST's, 3 destroyers, and 2 
frigates (PF's), was to reach Biak. Aboard 
the cargo vessels of these two convoys were 
to be artillery units, service troops, and sup- 
plies of all kinds. 3 

Close air support for the invasion of Biak 
was primarily the responsibility of the Ad- 
vanced Echelon, Fifth Air Force, which was 
to operate from bases at Hollandia and 
Wakde Island. The Fifth Air Force, the 
Thirteenth Air Force, and Australian and 
Dutch aircraft were assigned long-range and 
strategical support missions similar to those 
they had undertaken prior to the landings 
at Wakde-Sarmi. 4 

Alamo Force Reserve for Biak consisted 
of the 128th and 158th Regimental Combat 
Teams, which had also been in reserve for 
the Wakde-Sarmi operation. Hurricane 
Task Force Reserve consisted of two units. 
The first of these was a battalion (less one 
rifle company and the heavy weapons com- 
pany) of the 186th Infantry, and the other 
was the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Troop. 5 

Those elements of the Hurricane Task 
Force scheduled to land on Biak on 27 and 



s Ibid,; CTF 77 Opn Plan 5-44, 16 May 44, in 
Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 23-24 May 44: 
Alamo Force Opns Rpt Wakde-Biak, chart fol- 
lowing p. 37. 

4 AAF SWPA OI 51/1, 11 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl W akde-Biak, 14-18 May 44; see also above, 
| Ch. IX. | 

" Alamo Force FO 17, 13 May 44, in Alamo G-3 
Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44: HTF FO 1. 15 
Mav 44 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



285 



28 May were to carry with them to the 
objective ten days' supply of rations, cloth- 
ing, equipment (but only organizational 
sets of spare parts ) , fuels, and lubricants. 
Sufficient engineer construction equipment 
was to be landed on Biak during the first 
two days of the operation to assure a rapid 
start on airfield rehabilitation, road con- 
struction, and clearance of dispersal areas. 
All weapons except 4.2-inch mortars arriv- 
ing at Biak through Z plus 1 were to be 
supplied with two units of fire, while the 
mortars were to be supplied with six units of 
fire. Organizations arriving at Biak after 
28 May were to bring with them thirty 
days' supply of rations, clothing and equip- 
ment, fuels and lubricants, medical, engi- 
neer, and motor maintenance supplies, and 
three units of fire for all weapons. Initial 
responsibility for the transportation of troops 
and supplies to Biak rested with the Allied 
Naval Forces. It was planned that the 
Services of Supply would relieve the Navy 
of this duty late in June. 6 

Alamo Force was able to supply the 
Hurricane Task Force with little detailed 
information concerning the enemy situation 
on Biak Island. It was known that early in 
May the Japanese had ordered the defenses 
of Biak to be strengthened. Aerial reconnais- 
sance disclosed that some effort was being 
made on Biak to comply with these orders 
and that a large amount of materiel had 
reached the island during the early months 
of the year. The extent of the Biak defenses 
however, was unknown. The enemy garri- 
son on Biak was thought to total about 4,400 
men, including the bulk of the 222d Infan- 
try Regiment, 36th Division, and the effec- 
tive combat strength of the 222d Infantry 



6 Alamo Force Adm O 9, 13 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44; GHQ SWPA 
OI 51/1, 10 May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 27 Apr 44. 



would probably not exceed 2,500 men. It 
was further believed that the principal Jap- 
anese strength was concentrated in the 
vicinity of Mokmer Drome, and it appeared 
likely that enemy troops which had once 
been stationed in the Bosnek area had been 
moved west to Mokmer early in May. 

The landing on Biak was expected to 
elicit a strong aerial reaction from the Japa- 
nese. However, it was not probable that the 
enemy air attacks could reach very damag- 
ing proportions because all Japanese fields 
within range of Biak could be subjected to 
heavy bombardment by Allied aircraft. Al- 
lied Naval Forces did not believe that the 
enemy would risk major fleet units in an 
attempt to retake Biak once Allied forces 
had established a firm foothold on the 
island. Finally, though the seizure of Wakde 
might give the Japanese some indication 
that the next Allied target would be Biak, 
it was thought possible that the Hurricane 
Task Force might achieve local tactical sur- 
prise as to the date and place of landing. 7 

The Landing Plan 

The Hurricane Task Force was to land 
in the Bosnek area on beaches designated 
Green 1, 2, 3, and 4. Green Beach 1, 200 
yards long, began at a point about 500 yards 
east of Bosnek. Green Beach 2 was 300 
yards long and extended west from Green 1 
to the most easterly of the two jetties which 
crossed the coral reef in front of Bosnek. 
Green Beach 3 was located between the two 
jetties and was about 750 yards long. Green 

' Alamo Force, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, Biak 
Island, 7 May 44, in Alamo G-4 Jnl, Wakde-Biak, 
13 Apr-19 May 44; Alamo Force, G-2 Photo Int 
Sec, Rpt 122, 22 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Wadke-Biak, 23-24 May 44; CTF 77 Opn Plan 
5-44, 16 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 
23-24 May 44. 



286 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Beach 4 extended 300 yards along the shore 
beyond the western jetty. 8 

Since little was known about the coral 
reef fronting the four Biak beaches, the 
landing plans differed from those for most 
previous operations within the Southwest 
Pacific Area. Amphibian vehicles such as 
LVT's and DUKW's were to make up the 
initial waves, because it was obvious that 
standard landing craft could be counted on 
for only limited use. The amphibian vehicles 
of the first waves were to be carried to Biak 
aboard LST's and were to unload in the 
stream outside the reef. After putting the 
initial waves ashore, the vehicles were to re- 
turn to the LST's and shuttle supplies to the 
beaches. LCPR's, considered light and small 
enough to find channels through the reef, 
were to take some troops ashore after the 
first few waves had landed. 

Eight LCT's were supplied by Allied Na- 
val Forces for the express purpose of taking 
ashore tanks, 105-mm. howitzers, trucks, and 
bulldozers. The LCT's were to be driven 
as far up on the reef as possible and over it 
if feasible, and it was hoped that there would 
be enough water shoreward of the reef to 
float them. The equipment these craft were 
to take ashore was so important to the suc- 
cess of the operation that the risk of damage 
to them on the coral reef had to be accepted. 
The LCT's and LCPR's were to be Navy- 
manned while the DUKW's were to be 
driven by men of the 3d Engineer Special 
Brigade. Some of the LVT's were to be 
manned by the latter unit and others were 
to be driven by specially trained men of the 
41st Division. 9 

At first, H Hour was set for 0745. But the 
planners lacked knowledge of wind, tide, 

8 CTF 77 Opn Plan 5-44, 16 May 44. 
8 Ibid.; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 4; HTF Opns 
Rpt Biak, 1 7 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 2-3. 



current, and offshore conditions at Biak, and 
therefore decided to keep the landing time 
flexible, dependent upon the conditions 
found at Biak on Z Day. Therefore, the na- 
val and ground commanders objected to a 
Fifth Air Force plan to support the landing 
by having twelve B-24's bomb the beaches 
immediately before H Hour. However, Gen- 
eral MacArthur's headquarters considered 
it inadvisable to eliminate the air bombard- 
ment, and the Fifth Air Force offered to in- 
crease the number of B-24's from twelve to 
fifty-two. The Biak planners thereupon de- 
cided that it was worth while to sacrifice 
H-Hour flexibility to secure the additional 
air support, a decision which General 
Krueger quickly approved. 

Some conditions, accepted by the Fifth 
Air Force, were made in the final agree- 
ment between the air, naval, and ground 
force commanders. First, bombs were to 
be dropped from a high level in order to 
avoid having the B— 24's interfere with naval 
fire. Second, the bombers were not to hit 
the two jetties, which might be found in 
good enough condition for use by assault 
ships. Finally, no bombs were to be dropped 
on the reef lest chunks of coral be dislodged 
and, rolling in the surf, endanger landing 
craft and amphibian vehicles. 10 The aerial 
bombardment was to be co-ordinated with 
an H Hour which was finally set for 0715. 
Even at this earlier time the bombers would 
be able to see their targets (sunrise at Biak 
being at 0655 ) and the change in H Hour 
would gain a half hour of daylight for ship 
unloading. The half -hour change would also 
reduce the time the assault shipping would 



"CTF 77 Opn; Rpt Biak, p. 5; Rad, Alamo to 
GHQ SWPA, WI-3521, 21 May 44; Rad, GHQ 
SWPA to Alamo, AAF SWPA, and ANF SWPA, 
CX-12843, 23 May 44, both in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 23 
May 44. 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



287 



have to remain off Biak during daylight and 
might increase chances for tactical surprise. 11 

Other than the beach bombardment by 
B-24's, close, air support for Biak on Z Day 
was similar to that undertaken for the 
Wakde landing. Medium bombers and 
fighters were to maintain an air alert over 
the Biak landing area from first light to 
dusk on Z Day. The convoys from eastern 
ports to Biak were to be given cover by Fifth 
Air Force planes. At Biak the medium bomb- 
ers and fighters would fly close support mis- 
sions for the forces ashore and would also 
undertake artillery spotting roles until an 
artillery liaison plane strip could be con- 
structed on the island. 12 

Naval fire support was to begin at H 
minus 45 minutes, 0630. From that time 
until H Hour, cruisers and destroyers were to 
expend 400 rounds of 8-inch, 1 ,000 rounds 
of 6-inch, 3,740 rounds of 5-inch, and 1,000 
rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition on targets in 
the airfield area west of the landing beaches. 
After H Hour the cruisers were to continue 
intermittent fire on the airfields, bombard 
targets of opportunity, and respond to calls 
for support from the forces ashore. Because 
there were many known or suspected Japa- 
nese gun emplacements along the south 
shore of Biak, counterbattery fire was to take 
precedence over all other types of fire. 

Bombardment of the landing beaches 
was also to begin at H minus 45 minutes. 
Five destroyers were to bombard the beaches 
and adjacent areas until H minus 30 min- 
utes, when they were to move westward to 
join the cruisers firing on the airfield area. 
Then four other destroyers were to continue 
beach bombardment until H minus 3 min- 

11 Rad, CTF 76 to Alamo, 22 May 44, and Rad, 
41st Div to Alamo Force, DD-383, 23 May 44, both 
in Alamo G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 23-24 May 44. 

" HTF FO 1, 15 May 44; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, 
p. 5. 



utes. Total ammunition allowance for beach 
bombardment was 4,900 rounds of 5-inch 
and 4.7-inch shells, while 40-mm. and 
20-mm. ammunition was to be expended at 
the discretion of individual ship com- 
manders. Rocket and automatic weapons 
fire from three rocket-equipped LCI's and 
two SC's was to provide close support for the 
assault waves. This fire was to begin at H 
minus 5 minutes and was to last until H 
Hour or until the initial wave was safely 
ashore. 13 

The first landings on Biak were to be 
made by the 186th Infantry of the 41st Divi- 
sion. The regiment was to land in column of 
battalions, the 2d Battalion leading, on 
Green Beaches 2 through 4. The first three 
waves, consisting of sixteen LVT's each, 
were to land at five-minute intervals begin- 
ning at H Hour. DUKW's, with Company 
D, 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion (4.2- 
inch mortars), and the 121st Field Artillery 
Battalion (75-mm. pack howitzers ) aboard, 
were to follow the 2d Battalion ashore be- 
ginning at H plus 15 minutes. Twelve 
LCPR's were to take elements of the 3d Bat- 
talion to the two jetties at H plus 20 minutes. 
Simultaneously, Green Beach 1 was to be 
seized by a rifle company and the heavy 
weapons company of the 1st Battalion. 

Once the two jetties were secured, LCI's 
bearing the 162d Infantry, supporting 
troops, and the task force reserve were to 
move inshore and unload. LST's were also 
to move to the jetties when the beach area 
surrounding them had been cleared by the 
186th Infantry. LCM's bearing artillery, 
tanks, and engineering equipment were to 
move to the beaches as soon as channels 



13 CTF 77 Opn Plan 5-44, 16 May 44; CTF 77 
Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 4-5; HTF FO 1, 15 May 44. 
The 4.7-inch ammunition was to be fired by Aus- 
tralian destroyers and the 8-inch by Australian heavy 
cruisers. 



288 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




MOKMER DROME, BIAK, under air attack. 



through the coral were found or made, or to 
the jetties in waves following the 186th In- 
fantry's assault companies. 14 

As soon as it reorganized ashore, the 162d 
Infantry was to advance rapidly west along 
the coast from Bosnek to seize the three air- 
dromes. This drive was to be supported by 
eight tanks of the 603d Tank Company and 
the 146th Field Artillery Battalion (105- 
mm. howitzers). The fields were to be re- 
paired quickly to accommodate one fighter 
group and then expanded to receive an 
additional fighter group, a heavy bomber 
group, a reconnaissance group, a night 
fighter squadron, and one photo reconnais- 
sance squadron. Mokmer Drome was to be 
the first field developed. 15 



" CTF 77 Opn Plan 5-44, 16 May 44: HTF FO 
1, 15 May 44; 186th Inf FO 2, 22 May 44, atchd to 
186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44. 

" HTF FO 1, 15 May 44; Alamo Force FO 17, 
12 May 44; Advon5AF OI 1, 12 May 44, in Alamo 
G-3 Jnl Wakdc-Biak, 14 May 44. 



It was obviously impossible, for tactical 
reasons, to set a specific date by which the 
Hurricane Task Force was to seize the Biak 
airfields. However, the urgency of quickly 
securing these fields was impressed upon 
General Fuller. One of the reasons for 
scheduling the Biak operation only ten days 
after the Wakde-Sarmi landing was to pro- 
vide, from Biak, additional air support for 
the Central Pacific's invasion of the Mari- 
anas on 15 June. The Allied Air Forces in- 
tended that one heavy bomber group and, 
apparently, some reconnaissance aircraft 
would be in operation from Biak before that 
date. The inadequate size of Wakde Island 
and the terrain and geographical position 
of Hollandia inclined Southwest Pacific 
planners toward the belief that only from 
Biak could all the bombing and reconnais- 
sance missions necessary to the support of 
the Marianas operation be properly exe- 
cuted. Finally, the faster the Biak fields were 
secured and made operational the more 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



289 



rapidly could Allied forces of the Southwest 
Pacific undertake subsequent advances in 
their own theater. 16 While it is not clear how 
soon after its landing the Hurricane Task 
Force was expected to secure the Biak fields, 
it is probable that General Headquarters 
anticipated that at least one of the fields 
would be operational by 1 June. 

The Landing 
Preparations and Approach 

Most of the Hurricane Task Force 
staged at Humboldt Bay, where prepara- 
tions for departure were made under diffi- 
cult circumstances. Terrain considerations 
forced most of the task force to assemble on 
the southern of the two sandspits dividing 
Humboldt and Jautefa Bays. On this spit 
the beach had a steep slope which made it 
impossible for more than a very few LST's 
to be held against the shore line long enough 
to load bulk stores. The LST's had to beach 
on the northern spit, where clearing and 
salvage after the fires and explosions which 
had ravaged that beach during the early 
phases of the Hollandia operation had not 
been completed. In addition, the northern 
spit was being used to unload supplies 
destined to be used at Hollandia, to load 
supplies being sent to the Tornado Task 
Force at Wakde Sarmi, and to unload cargo 
for the Hurricane Task Force. 

No road connected the northern and 
southern sandspits. Consequently, most of 
the supplies and equipment, as well as many 
of the troops, had to be transported by water 
from the southern to the northern loading 

10 Ltr, Col W. J. Paul [Dir, USAF Hist, Hq Air 
Univ] to Gen Ward, 7 Dec 50, no sub; and Ltr, Gen 
Krueger to Gen Ward, 2 Jan 51, no sub, both in 
OCMH files. 



area. There were only a few LCT's available 
for this work and only by working twenty- 
four hours a day from 15 May on were all 
the troops and supplies transported to the 
loading beach in time for departure on the 
25th. Some elements of the Hurricane 
Task Force, principally the 1st and 3d Bat- 
talions, 186th Infantry, were loaded by 
small craft from the southern spit onto the 
LCI's and APD's which were to take them 
to Biak. n 

Most of the assault troops of the Hurri- 
cane Task Force were trained and experi- 
enced in amphibious operations but not in 
landing on a hostile shore from LVT's and 
DUKW's launched from LST's in deep 
water. Rehearsals for the assault waves were 
therefore desirable, but there was time only 
for limited drills. A rehearsal with about 65 
percent of the LVT's and DUKW's (the 
rest were either undergoing repairs or being 
used for lighterage at Humboldt Bay) was 
held at Humboldt Bay on 23 May, Z minus 
4. Serious deficiencies were discovered in 
forming waves, timing, and communication 
between control vessels (SC's and LCI's) 
and the amphibian vehicles. 

There was no time for more rehearsal. 
Therefore a conference of amphibian-ve- 
hicle drivers, assault-unit officers, and naval 
control-boat officers was immediately held. 
Detailed methods of control were planned, 
and illustrated by rehearsing on dry land 
with a few vehicles. It was decided that the 
timing of assault waves could best be accom- 
plished by having each LST control the mo- 
ment of launching of its component of each 
wave. 18 

" HTF Dpns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 2; 
Memo, Asst ACofS G-3 Alamo to ACofS G-3 
Alamo, no sub, 9 May 44, in Alamo G-3 Jnl 
Wakde-Biak, 8-13 May 44; 186th Inf Opns Rpt 
Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44 pp. 1-2. 

18 HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 2 ; 
CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 6-7. 



290 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



The Hurricane Task Force left Hum- 
boldt Bay on the evening of 25 May. Sup- 
porting cruisers and their accompanying 
destroyers joined the assault shipping off- 
shore the following morning. Thereafter, 
since it seemed futile to attempt to evade 
enemy search planes (the large convoy 
moved at only 8.5 knots) the force pro- 
ceeded to Biak by the most direct route. No 
contacts, visual or by radar, were made with 
enemy aircraft on 26 May. During the fol- 
lowing night some radar contacts were 
made with Japanese planes, but none of 
the aircraft so spotted seemed to have dis- 
covered the Allied convoy and the force 
arrived off Biak early the next morning 
apparently without having been detected 
by the enemy. 



{Map V) 



A westerly current had been expected in 
the Biak area and, on the basis of available 
hydrographic information, some allowance 
had been made for it. Long before first light 
on 27 May, the convoy found itself in the 
current. The hydrographic information 
now proved to be wrong. The current was 
stronger than anticipated, and despite sub- 
sequent reduction of cruising speed the con- 
voy arrived off Bosnek about fifteen minutes 
early. In an amphibious operation, better 
early than late. Assault shipping and combat 
vessels immediately deployed in the trans- 
port and' fire support areas. At 0629 Ad- 
miral Fechteler ordered the landing plan to 
be executed. 18 

The Assault 

The naval fire support and the air bom- 
bardment were carried out as planned. All 

" CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 7-8; Ltr, Adm 
Fechteler to Gen Ward, 8 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH 
files. 



targets were well covered and there was little 
answering fire from Japanese shore installa- 
tions. Local tactical surprise was complete. 
The first wave of LVT's, with elements of 
the 2d Battalion, 186th Infantry, aboard, 
formed rapidly and crossed the line of de- 
parture exactly on schedule. 20 From that 
time on, the landing operations did not pro- 
ceed according to plan. 

Since the westerly current off Biak proved 
to be much stronger than had been antici- 
pated, during the air and naval bombard- 
ment the transport group had been set over 
3,000 yards west of its proper location. Al- 
though some of the ships' officers realized 
that the transport group was being carried 
west, nothing could be done to rectify the 
situation without causing a great deal of 
confusion and delaying the landing. More 
difficulties were caused by the morning twi- 
light and the smoke and dust raised by the 
preliminary bombardment. The correct 
beaches were obscured, and the shore line 
could not be seen from more than 400 yards 
out. 

A rocket-equipped LCI, which began fir- 
ing on the beaches about H minus 4 min- 
utes, led the first LVT wave toward the 
shore. The LCI fire, consisting of rockets 
and fire from automatic weapons, continued 
until H plus 2 minutes, when it was lifted 
because it began to endanger the troops who 
were unloading and pushing inland. Then 
it was discovered that the LVT's had 
touched shore at a mangrove swamp almost 
3,000 yards west of Green Beach 4. The 
next two LVT waves of the 2d Battalion also 
landed at the mangrove swamp, as did the 
fourth wave's DUKW's. Nevertheless, the 



M CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 8; HTF Opns Rpt 
Biak, 17 May-20 Auk 44, p. 4. 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



291 



entire battalion was ashore by 0730 and was 
pushing beyond the mangrove swamp to the 
main coastal road connecting Bosnek and 
the airfields. Five minutes later, Companies 
I and K of the 3d Battalion, 186th Infantry, 
landed about 700 yards east of the 2d Bat- 
talion. 

By this time the effect of the westerly cur- 
rent had been realized by all commanders, 
and naval control boat officers had started 
to turn succeeding waves eastward to the 
proper beaches. Some thirty minutes passed 
before the resultant confusion could be 
straightened out. For instance, part of an 
LCPR wave which was scheduled to land 
Company B of the 186th Infantry on Green 
Beach 1 at 0735, hit Green Beach 3 at 0742. 
The jetties, scheduled to be seized by Com- 
panies I and K at 0735, were not secured 
until after 0800, when the rest of the 3d 
Battalion began landing on them. 21 

Col. Oliver P. Newman, commanding the 
186th Infantry, had the 2d Battalion and 
most of the 3d Battalion organized under 
his direct control near Mandom, 2,000 
yards west of Bosnek, by 0740. With more 
than half of his regiment already far west 
of the proper landing beaches, and knowing 
that the landing had become disorganized 
and that the rest of the boat waves were 
being delayed, he asked the task force com- 
mander if the 186th Infantry should con- 
tinue with its original mission (securing the 
beachhead ) or whether it might be feasible 
to switch missions with the 162d Infantry 

21 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, 
p. 2; 186th Inf S-3 Overlay A, in Annex 4-E to 
186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44; 
CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 8; CO USS LCI(L) 
73 Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 1-2 ; CO USS Kilty ( APD 
15) Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 6-7; CO USS Schley 
(APD 14) Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; CO LCT Gp 23 
Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; Co K 186th Inf, Record of 
Events, 18 Apr-16 Jul 44, in ORB RAC AGO 
collection. 



and start moving west toward the airfields. 
General Fuller, the Hurricane Task Force 
commander, ordered the 186th Infantry to 
continue with its original mission. As events 
turned out, it might have been better had 
the regiment continued west, and it is pos- 
sible that a great deal of time might have 
been saved if the missions had been 
switched. In the first place, the maps with 
which the task force was supplied were so 
inaccurate that both regiments soon came 
upon terrain features that threw much 
planning out of gear. Secondly, most of the 
186th Infantry had landed so far west that 
both it and the 1 62d (the latter had to cross 
the 1 86th's line of march ) consumed much 
valuable time getting to their proper loca- 
tions. Finally, an exchange of missions 
might have been executed without much 
difficulty, for, in amphibious training, the 
41st Division had learned to switch missions 
when such mistakes were made. 22 

By 0745 the 2d Battalion, 1 86th Infantry, 
and the two companies of the 3d Battalion 
had started moving eastward. Meanwhile, 
the proper beaches had been located and 
waves going ashore after 0745, although 
late, proceeded to the right beaches at cor- 
rect intervals. These waves had to land 
without the anticipated cover of the first 
waves and the results might have been seri- 
ous had there been strong enemy opposition 
in the Bosnek area. But Japanese resistance 
was only nominal, and the temporary dis- 
ruption of the 186th Infantry did not prove 
dangerous. 23 

3 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, 
p. 2; 186th Inf Jnl, 27 May-20 Aug 44, atchd to 
186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44; 
Newman Notes ; Ltr, Gen Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 
50, no sub, in OCMH files. 

23 CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 8; HTF Opns Rpt 
Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 4; 186th Inf Opns Rpt 
Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, p. 2. 




BIAK COAST LINE near Mandom. In left foreground is mangrove swamp where 
2d Battalion, 186th Infantry, landed. 



294 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Companies I and K moved east to their 
planned location 1,000 yards west of Old 
(west) Jetty, arriving there about 1030. As 
the two companies took up their positions 
and began probing inland to the coral ridge 
behind Bosnek, the 2d Battalion passed 
through them on its way to the east flank of 
the beachhead. As the 2d Battalion ap- 
proached the jetty area, the rest of the 3d 
Battalion, together with regimental head- 
quarters personnel, began moving west and 
inland from the jetties to their proper posi- 
tions, crossing the 2d Battalion's line of 
march. To add to the difficulties of move- 
ment, at 0915, just as the 2d Battalion was 
clearing New Jetty, the task force reserve 
and task force artillery units began landing. 
It was 0930 before the 2d Battalion, the 3d 
Battalion, and the task force reserve were 
completely untangled and could move with- 
out further confusion to the planned limits 
of the initial beachhead. The line marking 
these limits was an arc centering on Bosnek 
and curving inland from a point on the 
beach 1 ,000 yards west of Old Jetty to the 
top of the ridge behind Bosnek. Thence it 
swung back to the beach 1,500 yards east 
of New Jetty. The area thus enclosed was 
secured by the 186th Infantry by noon on 
Z Day. 24 

The face of the coral ridge behind Bosnek 
was found to be rough and honeycombed 
with small caves. Companies F and G, aided 
by elements of the Support Battery, 542d 
Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, sent 
patrols along the steep slope and to the top 
of the ridge to investigate many of the caves, 
most of which proved to be unoccupied, 

u 186th Inf Jnl, 27 May-20 Aug 44; 186th Inf 
Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, p. 2; 3d Bn 
186th Inf Jnl, 14 May-24 Oct 44, in ORB RAC 
AGO collection. 



though three Japanese were killed near 
caves directly north of New Jetty. The com- 
panies moved over the first slope to a second 
ridge line which was parallel to and about 
seventy-five yards north of the first. Com- 
pany G started looking for a trail which was 
thought to lead over the ridges to the plateau 
north of Bosnek, but it was Company E 
which, shortly after noon, found the ill-de- 
fined track. A few Japanese in a pillbox 
temporarily prevented the two companies 
from securing the trail, which was not 
cleared until 1400 hours, after the pillbox 
had been destroyed. During the late after- 
noon, patrols were sent north of the ridges 
to the area which the Japanese had surveyed 
for an airdrome. A few Japanese, most of 
whom fled upon being sighted, were found 
at the airdrome site, but there were no signs 
of large organized enemy groups north, 
northeast, or east of Bosnek insofar as the 
186th Infantry could ascertain during 27 
May. 25 

The 162d Injantry on Z Day 

The 16 2d Infantry had begun landing 
shortly after 0900 on Z Day. 26 The regiment 
quickly assembled and immediately started 
moving west along the main coastal road to- 
ward the task force objectives, the three 
Japanese airdromes. Two alternatives had 
been planned for this advance. The first was 
to send the three battalions in column along 
the coastal road in the order 3d, 2d, and 1st. 
The other was to have only the 3d Battalion 
attack along the road while the 2d Battalion 

25 Ibid.; 542d EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, p. 3. 

15 Information in this subsection is taken prin- 
cipally from: 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May- 
19 Aug 44, pp. 1-3; 162d Inf FO 1, 15 May 44, 
and 162d Inf Jnl 22 May-19 Aug 44, both atchd 
to 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44. 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



295 



moved over the ridges to the inland plateau 
and pushed west, echeloned to the right rear 
of the 3d. In case the latter plan was used, 
the 1st Battalion was also to advance over 
the inland plateau on the 2d Battalion's 
right rear. This second plan was to be used 
only if the Japanese appeared to be holding 
the ground behind the initial beachhead in 
great strength, for it was realized that the 
echelon movement would probably be more 
time consuming than a column attack along 
the road, and speedy occupation of the air- 
dromes was the principal mission of the 
162d Infantry. 

Since there had been few contacts with 
the enemy by the time that the 162d In- 
fantry was ready to start its attack west- 
ward, it was decided that only one company 
of the 2d Battalion need be sent inland to 
protect the right flank. The rest of that bat- 
talion and all of the 1st were to follow the 
3d along the main road. The 1st Battalion 
was to maintain contact with the 186th 
Infantry in the Bosnek area until such time 
as the tactical situation permitted this con- 
tact to be broken. Should the advance of 
the 2d and 3d Battalions be rapid, the 1st 
would have to stretch its companies west 
along the road from the positions of the 1 st 
Battalion, 186th Infantry, at Mandom. 

It was 0930 before the 3d Battalion had 
passed the point at which the first assault 
waves of the 186th Infantry had come 
ashore about 0715. An hour later, the bat- 
talion had passed through the village of 
Ibdi, west of the 2,000-yard-long mangrove 
swamp. Beyond Ibdi the coral ridge which 
paralleled the southern shore of Biak fell 
steeply to within 100 feet of the beach. At 
this point the ridge was a vertical cliff about 
200 feet high, below which the main road 
ran along the coast. The defile between the 
beach and the cliff, not shown on any maps 
then available to the 162d Infantry, began 



about 1 ,500 yards west of Ibdi and ran in a 
generally southwesterly direction for almost 
2,000 yards along the shore of Soanggarai 
Bay. At the village of Parai, on the beach 
just beyond the western end of the defile, 
the cliff broke into a series of parallel ridges 
which formed a continuation of the main 
coastal ridge. 

It was about 1115, when the regimental 
Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon 
discovered an enemy position on the face 
of the cliff west of Ibdi, that the 162d In- 
fantry first learned of the existence of the 
Parai Defile. At 1300 the 3d Battalion, with 
six tanks of the 603d Tank Company lead- 
ing the advance, arrived at the eastern en- 
trance to the defile. There was no large 
Japanese force stationed along the cliff, but 
the few Japanese had such a tactical advan- 
tage over troops moving along the coastal 
road that they were able to delay the 162d 
Infantry's advance for some time. The tanks 
fired on enemy-occupied caves along the 
cliff, and rocket-equipped LCI's, lying off- 
shore, pounded the main road and ridge 
west of Parai. By 1500 the 3d Battalion had 
pushed through the defile and had secured 
Parai and a large jetty at that village. 

Meanwhile Company E, which had been 
attempting to advance along the ridge north 
of the rest of the regiment, had found that 
the terrain and thick vegetation made prog- 
ress along that route next to impossible. 
Since the company was lagging far behind 
the rest of the advance and since strong 
enemy opposition had not yet been en- 
countered either inland or on the coastal 
route, it withdrew to join the rest of the 2d 
Battalion on the beach, and by the time 
that battalion had reached Parai, Company 
E was back in place. Progress west of the 
Parai Defile was without noteworthy inci- 
dent during the rest of the afternoon, though 
scattered small groups of Japanese were seen 



296 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



and fired upon. At the close of the day the 
2d and 3d Battalions started digging in 
around Parai and along the coast west 
toward the village of Mokmer. The 1st Bat- 
talion remained at Ibdi. 

Supporting Arms and Services, 
ZDay 

The first artillery unit ashore on 27 May 
was Battery C, 121st Field Artillery Battal- 
ion, which, landing from amphibian vehi- 
cles, was set up and ready to fire by 0730. 
The rest of the battalion, together with the 
entire 146th Field Artillery Battalion, was 
ashore by 1 100. Battery C, 947th Field Ar- 
tillery' Battalion (155-mm. howitzers), in 
general support, came ashore during the 
morning and went into position east of New 
Jetty early in the afternoon. The 1 21st Field 
Artillery Battalion was prepared to support 
the operations of the 186th Infantry, but 
only Battery C, which did some firing on the 
coral caves behind Bosnek, got into action. 
By early afternoon the westward advance of 
the 162d Infantry had progressed so far that 
two batteries of the 146th Field Artillery 
Battalion were displaced to Ibdi. Other than 
the few shots by Battery C of the 1 2 1st, artil- 
lery fire during the day was limited to regis- 
tration on check points, and no defensive or 
harassing fires were requested until 0115 on 
28 May. Company D, 641st Tank Destroyer 
Battalion, landed its 4.2-inch mortars at the 
jetties at 0815. The company followed the 
162d Infantry to the west and bivouacked 
for the night near the 1st Battalion, 162d 
Infantry. It did no firing during the day. 27 

"41st Inf Div [HTF] Artillery, Opns Rpt Biak, 
27 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 2-3 ; 947 th FA Bn Jnl Biak, 
23 May-20 Aug 44; 121st FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, 
27 May-18 Jul 44, pp. 1-2; Co D 641st Tank 



Naval support vessels, in addition to fur- 
nishing rocket fire west of the Parai Defile, 
hit other targets. The cruisers and destroyers 
of Fire Support Groups A and B kept up har- 
assing fire on the airdrome areas through- 
out the day until 1 700. One destroyer sank 
six enemy barges west of Bosnek during the 
morning. Another destroyer, operating east 
of the beachhead, fired on many targets of 
opportunity, including enemy troops in 
caves along the water line and supply, am- 
munition, and fuel dumps. 28 Not all the 
B-24's scheduled to engage in the preland- 
ing bombardment reached Biak, but the 
principal targets were adequately covered 
by the planes which did reach them. The 
medium bombers, whose action was con- 
trolled by the Naval Attack Force com- 
mander on Z Day, arrived over Biak on 
time. These support aircraft delivered re- 
quested attacks accurately and promptly. 
Fighter cover could not be established over 
Biak until 1110 because a front of bad 
weather west of Wakde Island, where the 
fighters were based, delayed the planes' ar- 
rival. Fortunately, no determined enemy air 
attacks were made before 1 1 10. 29 

Antiaircraft artillery, under the control of 
Headquarters, 208th Antiaircraft Artillery 
Group, quickly set up its guns in the beach- 
head area during the morning. A few enemy 
planes which flew over Biak around noon 
fled before antiaircraft guns from ship or 

Destroyer (TD) Bn Jnl, 24 May-7 Jul 44 (this 
unit's records are variously entitled: Reconnais- 
sance Co, 641st TD Bn; Co D, 641st TD Bn; Co C, 
98th Chemical Mortar Bn; Co D, 98th Chemical 
Mortar Bn), in ORB RAC AGO collection; 146th 
FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, 22 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 3-4. 

28 CTF 77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 9 ; CO USS Reid 
(DD 369) Opns Rpt Biak, 27-28 May 44, p. 1; 
CO USS Kalk (DD611) Opns Rpt Biak, 25 May-4 

Jun 44, p. 2. 

» CTF 77 Qpns Rpt B ; akj p 10 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



297 



shore could be brought to bear. But all anti- 
aircraft crews were on the alert to expect 
further Japanese air action late in the after- 
noon. Because of the difference in time of 
sunset at the closest Allied and Japanese 
bases, Japanese aircraft could remain in the 
Biak area about half an hour after Allied 
planes had to leave. 

The expected attacks developed shortly 
after 1600, when four Japanese two-en- 
gined bombers, accompanied by three or 
four fighters, approached the beachhead 
from the north, flying low over the ridge 
behind Bosnek and thus escaping radar de- 
tection. Some excellent targets were ready 
for the Japanese. Admiral Fechteler had 
permitted four LST's to tie up side by side 
at one of the jetties. Although he knew this 
move to be tactically unsound, he consid- 
ered it justified because of the importance of 
the cargo aboard the LST's and because the 
jetty provided the only good spot for LST 
beaching. The Japanese bombing was ac- 
curate, but the LST's were lucky. None of 
the Japanese bombs exploded ! 

Though the Japanese planes also bombed 
and strafed the beaches, none of the bombs 
dropped ashore exploded, while the strafing 
runs killed only one man and wounded two 
others. All four bombers were shot down by 
ground or ship-based antiaircraft, and the 
Japanese fighters were driven off by some 
Allied fighter planes which had remained 
late in the area. One Japanese bomber 
crashed into the water, sideswiping an SC 
which was standing offshore. Two of the 
ship's crew were killed and nine wounded. 
The SC had to be towed away for repairs, 
and a few other naval vessels suffered minor 
damage from strafing. There was negligible 
damage to supplies and equipment ashore. 
Total Allied losses as a result of the air raid 



were three killed and fourteen wounded, 
most of them naval personnel. 30 

.Unloading on Z Day was accomplished 
by a variety of means. Some of the LCT's 
were able to reach the beach over the coral 
reef, from which the craft received little 
damage during the day. Other LCT's, after 
a partially destroyed wooden pier off one 
of the large jetties was knocked down, un- 
loaded artillery, tanks, trucks, and engineer- 
ing equipment on the earth and rock section 
of the jetty. All LCT unloading was com- 
pleted by 1000, after which hour the LCT's 
aided the LVT's and DUKW's to unload 
LST's still standing in the stream outside the 
reef. Calm water permitted the LCT's to 
fasten ramp to ramp with the LST's, allow- 
ing cargo to be transferred directly from the 
larger craft to the smaller. Most of the cargo 
so handled was brought ashore over the 
reef to Green Beach 1. Five of the LST's 
were unloaded at the two jetties, as were 
most of the LCI's. After they had put troops 
ashore, some the LCPR's which had been 
brought to Biak aboard APD's aided in un- 
loading LST's. These LCPR operations 
ceased at 1000, when the APD's formed a 
convoy to return to Hollandia. 

Unloading stopped at 1715, about half 
an hour earlier than had been planned, be- 
cause of the threat of more Japanese air 
attacks. By that time all the Z-Day troops 

sc Ltr, Adm Fechteler to Gen Ward, 8 Nov 50; 
CO LCT Gp 23 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; CO USS 
Kalk Opns Rpt Biak, 25 May-4 Jun 44, p. 2; CTF 
77 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 10; CO USS LST 463 AA 
Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May 44, pp. 1-2 ; HTF G-3 Jnl, 
15 May-21 Aug 44; History of First Battalion, One 
Hundred Eighty-Sixth Infantry, While Detached 
From Regimental Control, Task Force Reserve, 27 
May-2 June 44 (hereafter cited as 1st Bn 186th 
Inf Hist, 27 May-2 Jun 44), p. 1, in Annex 4 to 
186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, 
pp. 1-2. 




of the Hurricane Task Force, some 1 2,000- 
odd, were ashore, as were twelve medium 
tanks, five 155-mm. howitzers, twelve 105- 
mm. howitzers, twelve 75-mm. pack how- 
itzers, and about 500 vehicles of all types. 
An estimated 3,000 tons of bulk cargo (in- 
cluding about 600 tons aboard vehicles) 
had been landed, and only 300 tons of bulk 
cargo had not been put ashore when un- 
loading operations ceased for the day. 31 

31 CO LCT Gp 23 Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2 ; CTF 77 
Opns Rpt Biak, p. 9; CO USS Kilty (APD 15) 
Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; CO USS Schley (APD 14) 
Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; CO USS LST 463 Opns Rpt 
Biak, p. 1; HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 
44, p. 5. 



Principal responsibility for moving the 
supplies ashore and establishing dumps was 
assigned to the 542d Engineer Boat and 
Shore Regiment, which operated under the 
supervision of the Shore Party commander. 
Attached to the regiment for these purposes 
were the Cannon and Antitank Companies, 
162d Infantry; the Cannon Company, 
186th Infantry; Company B, 116th Engi- 
neers ; four quartermaster companies of var- 
ious types; a port company; an amphibian 
truck company ; and an ordnance company. 
The Bosnek beachhead held by the 186th 
Infantry was ideal for the location of the 
initial task force supply dumps and there 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



299 



was no difficulty finding dispersal areas. 
Movement of supplies from the beach to the 
dump areas was initially somewhat ham- 
pered by lack of wheeled vehicles, but the 
Japanese air raids had no effect upon these 
activities. 32 

The 116th Engineers (less Company A) 
upon landing devoted its attention to con- 
structing and improving roads in the beach- 
head area and clearing the ground for sup- 
ply dumps. Company C supported the west- 
ward advance of the 16 2d Infantry by re- 
pairing the road bed and bridges along the 
main coastal track. These repairs were nec- 
essary so that motor vehicles and the 603d 
Tank Company (which, coming ashore at 
H plus 50 minutes, had been attached to the 
162d Infantry) could follow the infantry 
toward the airfields. Company B, 1 1 6th En- 
gineers, in addition to working with the 
542d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 
devoted some of its time to clearing and re- 
pairing the two jetties at Bosnek. The 1 16th 
Engineers also established task force water 
points on the beachhead. 33 

By nightfall General Fuller, who had as- 
sumed command ashore at 0930, 34 had good 
reason to be optimistic about the outcome 
of the Biak operation. 36 The landing, al- 
though confused, had been unopposed. 
Troops and supplies had come ashore with- 
out undue difficulty and had been well-dis- 



33 HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 5 ; 
542d EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 1-2; G^l HTF, 
G-4 Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May G-20 Aug 44, p. 6 
(atchd to HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44). 

33 HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 5; 
1 16th Engr Opns Rpt Biak, 10 May-20 Aug 44, Ch. 
Ill, pp. 1-2; Ltr, CO 16 2d Inf to CO 116th Engrs, 
13 Sep 44, sub: Commendation of Company C, 
116th Engrs, in 116th Engrs Opns Rpt Biak, 10 
May-20 Aug 44, Ch. I ; 603d Tank Co Opns Rpt 
Biak, p. 1, copy in OCMH files. / 

M Rad, CTF 77 to Com7thFlt, 26 May 44, in 
Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-B'iak, 27-28 May 



persed. Japanese air defense had been in- 
effective. The 162d Infantry, although it 
had discovered unmapped terrain features 
and had been temporarily delayed at the 
Parai Defile, was well on its way to the air- 
fields. The ridges behind Bosnek had been 
cleared. Artillery was well emplaced to sup- 
port further advances both to the west and 
north. No large, organized bodies of Japa- 
nese had been encountered. Despite the fact 
that information gathered on Z Day indi- 
cated that the Japanese garrison on Biak 
was larger than had been estimated prior to 
the landing, 36 no determined enemy ground 
defense had been encountered. 

The Japanese were soon to change to pes- 
simism any optimism the Hurricane Task 
Force may have possessed on the evening of 
Z Day. 

The Japanese on Biak 

The Japanese, who had occupied Biak in 
early 1942, had paid little attention to the 
island until late 1943. Then they decided 
to convert Biak into a key air base which 
would be within fighter range of many other 
of their air bases in western Dutch New 
Guinea. To protect and hold the island, the 
Japanese sent to Biak one of their best regi- 
ments, the veteran ( of China ) 222d Infan- 
try, 36th Division, which arrived on Biak in 
December 1943. It is probable that the Jap- 
anese initially intended to make Biak into a 
tremendous ground stronghold as well as a 



44; Rad, HTF to Alamo, no number, 27 May 44, 
in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 25-28 
May 44. 

M Rad, Alamo Rear Hq to Alamo Adv Hq, WF- 
4546, 28 May 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl 
Wakde-Biak, 28-29 May 44, states that Gen Fuller 
had some hope of taking the airstrips on 28 May. 

M G-2 HTF, G-2 Hist of HTF, Val. I, Part I. 
Historical Narrative, p. 4. 



300 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



major air base. However, when on 9 May 
Imperial General Headquarters moved the 
southeastern strategic main line of resistance 
west of Biak to Sorong and the Halmaheras, 
Biak was left as an outpost which was to be 
held as long as possible. 

Japanese Defenses on Biak 

The command of Japanese Army troops 
on Biak was vested in the commander of the 
222d Infantry, Col. Naoyuki Kuzume. 3T 
As Commander, Biak Detachment, Colonel 
Kuzume had under his control approxi- 
mately 3,400 men of the 222d Infantry, .a 
company of the 36th Division's light tanks, 
miscellaneous field and antiaircraft artillery 
units, and numerous service organizations, 
the largest of which were the 17th, 107 th 
and 108th Field Airdrome Construction 
U nits of about 500 men each. Also stationed 
on Biak and under Colonel Kuzume's op- 
erational control were about 1,500 naval 
troops, among whom the senior officer was 
Rear Adm. Sadatoshi Senda, the command- 
ing officer of the 28th Naval Special Base 
Force. Most of the naval troops were mem- 
bers of service organizations, but the ap- 
proximately 125 men of the 19th Naval 
Guard Unit had received some combat 
training. The strength of Colonel Kuzume's 
command on 27 May was some 1 1,400 men, 
of whom about 4,000 were combat effec- 
tives. Insofar as supplies allowed him to do 
so, Colonel Kuzume armed his service troops 



"Information in this subsection is from: MID 
WD, Military Reports, 24, pp. 1-9, copy in G-2 
DofA files; Alamo Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 53, 9 Aug 
44, copy in G-2 DofA files; G-2 HTF, G-2 Hist of 
HTF, Vol. I, Part II, Enemy Opns, pp. 1-6 ; Opns of 
Yuki Group, pp. 1-2; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and 
Biak (Rev), p. 49. 



as auxiliary infantry and so used them 
throughout the Biak operation. 88 

The Allied landings at Aitape and Hol- 
landia on 22 April had prompted the Biak 
Detachment commander to draw up de- 
tailed defense plans and to begin work on 
fortifications which would help his troops 
to hold the island. About mid-May Colonel 
Kuzume was warned by the 2d Area Army 
that an Allied advance to the Schouten 
Islands was a certainty. After the landings 
of the Tornado Task Force at Wakde- 
Sarmi on 17 May, Colonel Kuzume ordered 
a cessation of all work on the Biak air- 
dromes, started an ambitious program of 
fortification, and began deploying his troops 
for a protracted land defense. 

Colonel Kuzume based his plans on the 
sound assumption that the principal Allied 
objective would be the airfield area along 
Biak's southern coast. Faced with the prob- 
lem of defending an extensive coast line with 
a small body of troops, he chose to concen- 
trate his defenses on terrain from which he 
could prevent Allied use of the airstrips for 
the longest possible time. For this purpose, 
he placed emphasis on high ground imme- 
diately north and northwest of Mokmer 
Drome. 

Where the main coastal ridge turns 
sharply north just west of Mokmer village, 
it leaves in its wake a series of gradually 
rising small terraces, many of which have 
steep seaward sides and some of which have 
a levee-like formation similar to that of the 
main ridge. The forward edge of the first 

" Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Maj Gen 
Charles A. Willoughby, ACofS G-2 FEC, to Gen 
Ward, about 10 Mar 51, no sub, in OCMH files. 
According to this list, there were at least 12,000 
Japanese on Biak on 27 May, but this figure seems 
high. 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



301 



prominent terrace rises steeply from the 
coastal plain in the form of a narrow ridge 
averaging sixty feet in height and lying a 
few hundred yards north of Mokmer and 
Borokoe Dromes. From this ridge and the 
rising terraces beyond it, the Japanese could 
look down on any activity along the coastal 
road west of Mokmer village and could ob- 
serve activity at and near the three airfields. 

In this amphitheater-like terrain and 
along the low ridge, both of which were cov- 
ered with thick growth (scrub on the terrace 
and rain forest on the ridge), the Biak De- 
tachment emplaced many field artillery and 
antiaircraft weapons. There were also many 
automatic weapons and a few mortars. All 
these weapons were located within range of 
Mokmer Drome and most of them could 
also fire on Borokoe Drome. The key to Colo- 
nel Kuzume's defenses in this area was the 
West Caves area, located about 50 yards 
north of the low ridge and about 1 ,200 yards 
north of the western end of Mokmer Drome. 
The West Caves were actually three large 
sumps, or depressions in the ground, which 
were connected by underground tunnels and 
caverns. The caves were ringed with pill- 
boxes, bunkers, and foxholes, and an exten- 
sive system of coral and log emplacements 
was built along the spur ridge above Mok- 
mer Drome. Biak naval headquarters was 
originally located in the West Caves, which 
could shelter 1,000 men, and Colonel Ku- 
zume planned to move Biak Detachment 
headquarters to the caves for the final de- 
fense of the airdromes. As long as the West 
Caves and the positions along the low ridge 
were occupied by the Japanese, Allied 
planes could not safely use the airfields. 

On the main coastal ridge between the 
village of Ibdi and the Parai Defile the Biak 
Detachment developed another center of 
resistance which came to be known as the 



Ibdi Pocket. The terrain in the area was a 
series of knifelike east-west ridges separated 
by depressions and crevices up to fifty feet 
deep. These ridges were connected in places 
by cross-ridges, and the entire area was cov- 
ered with thick rain forest and dense jungle 
undergrowth which had found a foothold in 
the coral. Pillboxes of coral and logs, hasty 
emplacements of the same materials, small 
caves and crevices, and foxholes at the bases 
of large trees were all utilized by the enemy 
to defend the area. 

On the main ridge north of Mokmer the 
Japanese constructed a third strong point, 
which was called by the Japanese the East 
Caves. Behind Mokmer the ridge rose to a 
height of 240 feet. It was not so steep a cliff 
as the Parai Defile barricade, but it could 
not be climbed without the use of hands. 
About three quarters of the way to the top 
was a flat ledge from which two large cav- 
erns, similar to those in the West Caves area, 
could be entered. The Japanese constructed 
pillboxes on the ridge both below and above 
the ledge, and in the caverns they emplaced 
mortars, 20-mm. guns, and heavy machine 
guns. Observation posts were also set up at 
the East Caves, from which an unobstructed 
view of the coast from Parai to the west end 
of Mokmer Drome could be obtained. The 
Biak Detachment used the East Caves prin- 
cipally as living quarters, supply dumps, and 
as a connecting link between the Ibdi Pocket 
and the West Caves. Continued Japanese 
occupation of the East Caves would endan- 
ger Allied troop and supply movements 
along the coastal road from Parai to Mok- 
mer Drome. 

Surprisingly, Colonel Kuzume made no 
attempt to set up a defense in depth along 
the road from Bosnek to the airfields. A hap- 
hazard beach defense, based on improved 
natural caves along the water line, was es- 



302 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tablished west of Mokmer and east of Bos- 
nek. Between Opiaref, 6,000 yards east of 
Bosnek, and Saba, 3,000 yards west of Opia- 
ref, such shore-line positions were well con- 
structed and camouflaged. They could be 
entered from defilade and they were backed 
by prepared mortar positions. However, 
these beach defenses had no depth, and the 
pillboxes or improved caves along the water 
line consisted of a single line of positions, 
not all of which had overlapping fields of 
fire. Four large steel pillboxes, only one of 
which had been emplaced by 27 May, were 
to cover the open beach at Bosnek. 

Dispositions of the Biak Detachment 

Colonel Kuzume's initial plan for the de- 
fense of Biak was published on 27 April, just 
five days after the Allied landings at Hol- 
landia and Aitape. 39 The 1st Battalion, 222d 
Infantry, was responsible for the defense of 
the southeastern section of the island east 
of a line drawn northwestward from Opi- 
aref. The 10th Company, 222d Infantry, re- 
inforced with artillery and mortar units, was 
to secure Korim Bay, located halfway up the 
southeast-northwest side of Biak. The area 
between Opiaref and Bosnek was assigned 
to the 19th Naval Guard Unit. The bulk of 
the 2d Battalion, 222d Infantry, was to de- 
fend the airfields and the coast from Bosnek 
west to Sorido. The 3d Battalion (less two 
companies and some artillery and mortar 
detachments) was to be held in reserve near 
the airfields, and the tank company was 
ordered to assemble near Saba. 

The Biak Detachment was not in its se- 



a<> Unless otherwise indicated, information in this 
subsection is from : MID WD, Military Reports, 24, 
pp. 5-14; G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. I, Part II, Enemy 
Opns, pp. 5-7; Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 3-4; 2d 
Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 50-56. 



lected defensive positions on Z Day but was 
apparently being held mobile. Detachment 
headquarters, the 1st Battalion of the 222d 
Infantry (less elements), about half of the 
19th Naval Guard Unit, and miscellaneous 
service organizations were all located in a 
cave and garden area on the inland plateau 
about 3,000 yards north-northwest of Bos- 
nek. Outposts at Saba and Opiaref were 
held by the 1st Company, 222 d Infantry, 
and a platoon of the 2d Company was sta- 
tioned along the main ridge behind Bosnek. 
The bulk of the 2d Battalion, the rest of the 
naval guard unit, and some naval antiair- 
craft organizations were located at the East 
Caves. Naval headquarters, various naval 
service units, and the 6th Company, 222d 
Infantry, were at the West Caves. Most of 
the army service units were at Mokmer 
Drome or disposed along the low ridge north 
of that field. The bulk of the 3d Battalion 
was posted at the west end of the same air- 
field. One platoon of the 10th Company was 
at Sorido, guarding the southern terminus 
of a trail which led north across the island 
to Korim Bay. The tanks had not yet moved 
to Saba but were assembled on the terrace 
north of the eastern end of Mokmer Drome. 

At various points along the terrace and 
low ridge were emplaced a battery of moun- 
tain guns, four 120-mm. naval dual purpose 
guns, three or four 3-inch antiaircraft guns, 
and a large number of mortars and auto- 
matic weapons of all calibers. One 6-inch 
naval coast defense gun was located on the 
beach south of Mokmer Drome, from which 
position it could cover the coast line for 
about five miles to the east and west. Some 
large guns were awaiting emplacement on 
the Bosnek beaches, while others in the same 
area, including a second 6-inch coast de- 
fense gun, had been destroyed by Allied air 
and naval bombardment prior to the land- 



BIAK: THE PLAN, THE LANDING, AND THE ENEMY 



303 



ings. At least one mortar company was at 
the East Caves and a few more mortars, to- 
gether with a small body of riflemen, were in 
the Ibdi Pocket area. 

Reactions to the Allied Landings 

Despite the fact that Colonel Kuzume 
had been warned that an Allied attack on 
Biak was imminent, the Biak Detachment 
was unprepared on 27 May. The troops 
were not in the best available positions, units 
were scattered, and the emplacement of 
artillery had not been completed. The bulk 
of the 2d Company platoon which was sta- 
tioned on the ridges overlooking Bosnek 
committed suicide during the morning of 
Z Day, and survivors were either killed by 
186th Infantry patrols or fled inland. The 
wasteful suicide of the 2d Company platoon 
was apparently the 1 only action taken by any 
part of the Biak Detachment until the night 
of 27-28 May. 

Caught out of position as he was, it is 
doubtful whether Colonel Kuzume either 
could or would have carried out his original 
defense plans. However, the problem was 
soon taken out of the colonel's hands. The 
27th of May found on Biak Lt. Gen. Takazo 
Numata, Chief of Staff of the 2d Area 
Army, who happened to be present on an 
inspection trip from army headquarters. 
General Numata, who remained on Biak 
until 15 June, immediately assumed direc- 
tion of the island's defense. It is probable 
fc that many of the sweeping changes which 
were later made in the Biak Detachment's 



original plans were undertaken upon his 
orders. 

The first offensive reaction on the part of 
the Biak Detachment was a night raid on 
the positions of Batteries B and C, 146th 
Field Artillery Battalion, which were lo- 
cated near Ibdi in thick scrub growth north 
of the main coastal road. Sometime before 
midnight a Japanese patrol of the 3d Bat- 
talion, 222d Infantry, had crossed the road 
to the south, and shortly after that time 
parts of this group charged with fixed bayo- 
nets into Battery C's wire section. Two ar- 
tillerymen were immediately stabbed to 
death and others were wounded before the 
enemy was driven back by American ma- 
chine gun fire which was aimed along the 
road. More men of the 3d Battalion, 222d 
Infantry, renewed the attack with grenades 
and rifle fire, some circling to the north 
around Battery C and a few others moving 
against Battery B, located 200 yards to the 
east. Attacks on Battery C continued until 
daylight, when the last Japanese withdrew. 
The action cost Battery C 4 men killed and 
8 wounded, while a near-by antiaircraft de- 
tachment lost 1 man killed and 1 wounded. 
Over 15 of the enemy had been killed dur- 
ing the night and an unknown number 
wounded. 40 

The action was but a minor prelude to a 
larger battle in which the 162d Infantry, 
continuing its advance west on the 28th, was 
soon to become involved. 

"The story of this night action is from: 146th 
FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, 22 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 4-6 ; 
Opns of Yuki Group, p. 3; 2d Army Opns> at Sarmi 
and Biak (Rev), pp. 55-56. 



CHAPTER XIII 



West to Mokmer Drome 



After spending a night disturbed only by 
a few Japanese mortar shells, the 162d In- 
fantry resumed its westward advance at ap- 
proximately 0730 on 28 May. (See Map 
V.) Just past the Parai Defile the seaward 
side of the main coastal ridge gives way to 
an inclined terrace about 500 yards wide 
and a mile and a half long. Slanting toward 
the shore, this terrace ends in the twenty- 
foot-high cliff located along or near the 
water line from Parai west beyond Mokmer 
village. The 162d Infantry planned to send 
part of its 3d Battalion along the terrace, 
inland, while the rest of the unit advanced 
along the coastal road, which runs from the 
Parai Defile partly beneath the cliff and 
partly along its crest. The 2d Battalion was 
to move along the terrace to the right rear 
of the 3d, while the 1st Battalion was to take 
up reserve positions at Parai. The advance 
was to be supported from the shore by the 
146th Field Artillery and the 603d Tank 
Company. Destroyers were to stand offshore 
to provide fire support on call. 1 

An Initial Reverse 
Prelude to Retreat 

The 3d Battalion, 162d Infantry, pro- 
ceeded through Mokmer village without op- 

1 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44, 
p. 2; 146th FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, 22 May-20 Aug 
44, p. 7; 603 d Tank Co Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; Ltr, 



position. 2 Company L and some of Com- 
pany M's heavy machine guns then moved 
on to the terrace above Mokmer, leaving the 
rest of the battalion to continue toward the 
airdromes along the coastal road. By 0930 
the main body of the battalion was at a 
road junction nearly 1,500 yards west of 
Mokmer. Slight resistance along the road 
from Mokmer had been easily brushed aside, 
but at the road junction enemy resistance 
stiffened sharply and machine gun and mor- 
tar fire pinned down Company K, which 
was leading the advance. As the 146th Field 
Artillery Battalion tried to silence this fire 
elements of Company K pushed westward 
to within 200 yards of Mokmer Drome. This 
was as close as any troops of the Hurricane 
Task Force were to approach that airfield 
for over a week. 

About 1000 hours, Japanese infantry, 



Col Harold Haney (ex-CO 162d Inf) to Gen Ward, 
Chief of Mil Hist, 20 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH 
files.. For additional information on terrain in this 
area, see above, |pp. 3OU-30T1 

* Information in this subsection is principally 
from: 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44, ^ 
pp. 2-4; 162d Inf Jnl, 22 May-19 Aug 44; 603d 
Tank Co Opns Rpt Biak, p. 2; 146th FA Bn Opns 
Rpt Biak, 22 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 7-9; CO TJSS 
Reid (DD 369) Opns Rpt Biak, 27-28 May 44, 
pp. 2-3; CO USS Wilkes (DD 441) Opns Rpt 
Biak, 28 May 44, pp. 2-5; CO USS LCI(L) 73 
Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-5 Jun 44, p. 2; 162d Inf, 
Rpt of Supply Opns, Biak, pp. 2-3, atchd to 162d 
Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44; 542d 
EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, p. 4; Ltr, Haney to Ward, 
20 Nov 50. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



305 




EAST CAVES AREA where the 162d Infantry first encountered the Japanese. 



elements of the 2d Battalion, 222d Infantry, 
counterattacked from the west. 3 The for- 
ward units of the 3d Battalion, 162d Infan- 
try, withdrew 600 yards along the coastal 
road to the point at which the twenty-foot 
cliff left the shore line, but Japanese in- 
fantry attacks, which were supported by 
automatic weapons fire, continued. The 
enemy threw more troops into the battle 
(more of the 2d Battalion, 222d Infantry) 
from the East Caves area until the attackers 
were coming not only from the west but also 
from the northwest and north. The Japa- 
nese split the 3d Battalion by driving a 
wedge along the cliff between the troops on 
the shore and those on the terrace, Com- 



a Identifications of enemy units in this and the 
/allowing subsections are based on: Opns of Yuki 
Group, p. 4; MID WD, Military Reports, 24, p. 
14; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 
56-59, 62. 



panies L and M were cut off. The 2d Bat- 
talion, attempting to get on the terrace to 
the north of the 3d Battalion, was pinned 
down by Japanese fire from the East Caves 
and was unable to advance. 

By 1100 the 3d Battalion was in sore 
straits. The main body was on the coast in 
an area about 200 yards deep and about 
500 east to west. Behind the battalion, the 
shore line was a twenty-foot cliff. The en- 
tire area was covered with secondary growth 
thick enough to prevent good observation 
along the ground but open enough to allow 
the Japanese in their higher East Caves 
position to view every American movement. 
The Japanese had excellent cover and con- 
cealment in the thick vegetation, coral caves, 
and crevices of the East Caves area and, at 
the same time, were able to subject the 3d 
Battalion to intense mortar, grenade, ma- 
chine gun, and rifle fire. Because of poor 



306 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



observation and the defiladed enemy posi- 
tions, the fire of neither the 146th Field 
Artillery Battalion nor the offshore destroy- 
ers was able to silence the enemy's weapons. 

Most of Company L and the Company M 
detachment which was also on the coral 
terrace managed to find a covered route 
back to the rest of the 3d Battalion on the 
shore, but one platoon, initially surrounded, 
had to fight its way eastward into the lines 
of the 2d Battalion, north of Mokmer vil- 
lage. Company G, on the terrace north of 
the main road and between the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, was also cut off and withdrew to 
the 2d Battalion only with difficulty, and 
after it had suffered many casualties from 
Japanese fire. The 1 st Battalion was ordered 
to move north from Parai onto the main 
coastal ridge to outflank the enemy posi- 
tions, but efforts to do so were halted by 
enemy fire from the East Caves. Two com- 
panies patrolled in the broken terrain along 
the main ridge but were unable to move 
westward. 

During the afternoon the 3d Battalion 
stood off two more concerted enemy coun- 
terattacks, one at 1200 and another 
shortly after 1400, and suffered more cas- 
ualties from the enemy mortar and artillery 
fire. During the latter attack, the Japanese 
began moving some light tanks forward from 
the Mokmer Drome area. The 3d Platoon, 
603d Tank Company, engaged these tanks 
at a range of 1,200 yards and, with the aid 
of fire from destroyers lying offshore, drove 
the enemy tanks back into defilade positions. 
Three tanks of the 603d were damaged by 
Japanese artillery fire and three men of the 
same organization were wounded during the 
action. 

Meanwhile, General Fuller had decided 
to reinforce the 3d Battalion, 162d Infantry. 
The 1st Platoon, 603d Tank Company, 



moved west along the coastal road. At the 
same time small boats manned by the 542d 
Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment were 
also sent forward with ammunition and 
medical supplies, both dangerously low. The 
small craft moved along the shore out of 
range of Japanese mortar and artillery fire 
until opposite the 3d Battalion's position and 
then shot inshore at full speed, one by one. 
Supplies were replenished and the worst 
casualties evacuated despite continued shell- 
ing of the 3d Battalion's position by the 
Japanese. The 1st and 2d Battalions con- 
tinued their efforts to clear the Japanese 
from the terrace behind the 3d but met with 
little success. 

By late afternoon the 3d Battalion's posi- 
tion was becoming untenable. Japanese 
mortar and artillery fire increased and en- 
emy patrols cut the coastal road to the rear. 
Obviously, no further advance could be 
made until the enemy fire from the East 
Caves area could be stopped by ground at- 
tack from the north, by naval fire from the 
south, or by artillery fire from emplacements 
to the east. Thus far, artillery fire had had 
little apparent effect upon the volume of 
Japanese fire. Only one artillery battalion 
was in position to fire on the East Caves 
area and the effect of its fire was limited by 
the location of the Japanese emplacements, 
most of which were either in deep defilade 
or were in caves and crevices facing sea- 
ward. Offshore destroyers and rocket LCI's 
were in the best position to fire on the Japa- 
nese emplacements. The best expedient 
would have been increased fire from these 
naval vessels, but such fire was now impos- 
sible to obtain. 

The naval fire support officer with the 
162d Infantry had been killed at the 3d 
Battalion's position about noon. Direct ship- 
to-shore communications immediately broke 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



307 



down, and no replacement for the liaison 
officer was immediately available. Commu- 
nications to the offshore destroyers and 
rocket LCI's remained erratic and slow 
throughout the 28th and the next day — 
messages had to be passed back from the 3d 
Battalion to regiment, then to Hurricane 
Task Force headquarters, to naval attack 
force headquarters, and finally to the naval 
fire support groups and individual ships. It 
was impossible to concentrate sufficient sup- 
port fire on the Japanese positions to neu- 
tralize the artillery, mortar, and machine 
gun fire still falling on the 162d Infantry's 
forward elements. 

About 1600 General Fuller gave up plans 
for further attempts at reinforcement of the 
forward units and ordered Colonel Haney 
to withdraw his 3d Battalion to the positions 
held the previous night. The withdrawal 
started slowly because communications diffi- 
culties still prevented concentration of sup- 
porting fires. However, at 1700 the regi- 
mental commander finally ordered the 3d 
Battalion to start moving back along the 
coastal road. Tanks were to act as point, 
and rear guard and close-in artillery fire 
was substituted for a disengaging force. The 
battalion was to continue eastward until it 
had passed through the 2d, which was set- 
ting up a new defensive position east of 
Mokmer village. 

The men of the 3d Battalion moved in 
small parties along the beach and main road, 
which was intermittently swept by Japanese 
mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire. Many 
troops were unable to use the main road, but 
had to drop down to the beach below the 
overhanging cliff. Four tanks brought up 
the rear and protected the north flank. Be- 
tween 1830 and 1900 all elements of the 3d 
Battalion reached safety beyond the 2d Bat- 
talion's lines and began digging in for the 



night east of the latter unit. Casualties for 
the day, almost all of them suffered by the 
3d Battalion, were 16 killed and 87 
wounded. 

The First Attack Ends in Retreat 

Sometime between dawn on 28 May and 
first light on the 29th, the 1st Battalion, 222d 
Infantry, and the headquarters of the Biak 
Detachment had moved overland to the 
West Caves from their previous positions 
north of the surveyed drome behind Bos- 
nek. 4 With the 1st Battalion in reserve, Col- 
onel Kuzume could throw the entire 2d and 
3d Battalions against the 16 2d Infantry. For 
the American regiment the night of 28-29 
May proved quiet in comparison with the 
action during the previous day, but the Jap- 
anese were ready to launch strong counter- 
attacks against it on the morning of the 29th. 

The first Japanese attack began at 0700 
on the 29th and was directed against the 2d 
Battalion, 162d Infantry. This attack, which 
was carried out by men of the 2d and 3d Bat- 
talions, 222d Infantry, was beaten off by 
mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire without 
loss to the American unit. About 0800, new 
waves of Japanese infantry, now supported 



4 Information in this subsection is from : MID 
WD, Military Reports, 24, p. 14; 162d Inf Opns 
Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44, pp. 4-5; 162d Inf 
Jnl, 22 May-19 Aug 44; 41st Inf Div, Tng Notes 
5, 12 Sep 44, sub: Japanese Tactics — Biak Opn, 
pp. 9-10, in files of the 41st Inf Div, in ORB RAC 
AGO collection; 603d Tank Co Opns Rpt Biak, 
p. 2; 146th FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 10-11; 
542d EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 4-6; 1st Plat Co 
D 641st TD Bn Jnl, 28 May-5 Jul 44, atchd to Co 
D, 641st TD Bn Jnl, 24 May-7 Jul 44, in ORB 
RAC AGO collection; 2d Plat Co D 641st TD Bn 
Jnl, 27 May-7 Jul 44, atchd to Co D, 641st TD 
Bn Jnl, 24 May-7 Jul 44, in ORB RAC AGO 
collection; HTF G-3 Jnl, 15 May-21 Aug 44; CO 
USS LCI(L) 73 Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-5 Jun 
44, pp. 2-3; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak 
(Rev), pp. 58-62. 




SCENE OF THE TANK BATTLE. Coastal road is depicted crossing the cliff 
in left corner of photograph. 



310 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



by four tanks, appeared west and north of 
the 2d Battalion, thus beginning the first 
tank battle of the war in the Southwest Pa- 
cific Area. 

The 2d Battalion, I62d Infantry, with the 
1st Platoon, 603d Tank Company, in sup- 
port, was astride the main coastal road 
1,000 yards east of Mokmer. The battalion's 
left flank was on the beach while its right 
was against the coastal cliff and less than 
forty yards inland. (The right had been 
drawn in from an initial position on the ter- 
race above the cliff after the 0700 attacks.) 
Between the beach and the cliff was a coco- 
nut grove. The main coastal road crossed 
the rise of the cliff at a point about 475 
yards west of the 2d Battalion's lines. 

Shortly after 0800 the Japanese tanks, fol- 
lowed by an infantry column, advanced 
down the incline where the main road 
crossed the cliff and deployed in echelon left 
formation in the coconut grove. The Japa- 
nese vehicles were light tanks, Model 95 
(1935), weighing about nine tons, carrying 
a crew of three men, and armed with one 
37-mm. cannon and two 7.7-mm. machine 
guns. They were opposed by two General 
Sherman M4A1 medium tanks, the heaviest 
armament on which was the 75-mm. gun. 
Each Japanese tank was stopped by one 
round of 75-mm. armor-piercing ammuni- 
tion, while the enemy infantry was literally 
mowed down by the machine guns and mor- 
tars of the 2d Battalion, 162d Infantry. 
Armor-piercing 75-mm. shells passed right 
through the Japanese light tanks, and the 
Shermans followed with a few rounds of 75- 
mm. high explosive, which tore holes in the 
Japanese vehicles and blew loose their tur- 
rets. During this action several hits scored 
on the Shermans by the Japanese 37-mm. 
guns caused no damage. 



About thirty minutes after the first attack 
the Japanese sent in a second wave of three 
tanks, which used the same route of ap- 
proach and the same formation in the coco- 
nut grove. These three were quickly de- 
stroyed by three Shermans. One enemy 
37-mm. shell locked the 75-mm. gun of one 
Sherman in place, but the American tank 
backed part way into a shell hole to obtain 
elevation for its weapon and, despite the 
damage, managed to destroy one of the 
enemy tanks. The Japanese tanks having 
been stopped and the leading elements of 
the second infantry wave killed, the attack 
disintegrated and the enemy withdrew. 

For an hour or so the Japanese were 
quiet, but late in the morning, under the 
cover of machine gun fire and mortar bar- 
rages, they began to circle north of the 2d 
and 3d Battalions, 162d Infantry. New in- 
fantry attacks began about 1 200. The enemy 
was unable to dislodge the 162d Infantry, 
but his mortar fire caused many casualties 
within the regimental perimeter and the 
Japanese managed to cut the coast road 
east of a large T-jetty at Parai. Company B 
and the Cannon Company (which was not 
armed with its usual 1 05-mm. howitzers but 
acted as an additional rifle company 
throughout the Biak operation) counterat- 
tacked the Japanese road block behind 
close-in mortar support and succeeded in 
dislodging the enemy by fire and movement. 

By noon it had become apparent that no 
attack launched against the airdromes 
would be successful until the Japanese could 
be cleared from the high ground overlook- 
ing the fields and the approaches thereto 
or until Japanese fire from the East Caves 
area and the ridge line east of that position 
could be neutralized. On 29 May it was 
impossible to neutralize these enemy instal- 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



311 



lations because the infantry troops were so 
close to them as to prevent effective artil- 
lery fire and because communications from 
the ground to support aircraft and naval 
vessels were, at best, sporadic. In view of 
these facts, Colonel Haney instructed his 
staff to prepare plans for withdrawal to 
Ibdi and Mandom by amphibious craft or 
by march through the Parai Defile. He then 
returned to the Hurricane Task Force com- 
mand post near Mandom to explain the 
situation to the task force commander and 
to confer on possible lines of action. At 1 200 
Colonel Haney returned to the forward 
area with approval for a withdrawal. 

Colonel Haney 's plan was to have his 1st 
Battalion cover the withdrawal from posi- 
tions at Parai, while the other two battalions 
and attached units moved both overland 
and by water back to Ibdi. One platoon of 
Company D, 641st Tank Destroyer Battal- 
ion (4.2-inch mortars), was to remain in 
place to maintain supporting fire during the 
withdrawal. The 542d Engineer Boat and 
Shore Regiment was to supply small craft 
and amphibian vehicles for the overwater 
withdrawal. 

It was some time before all elements of 
the 162d Infantry could get ready for the 
withdrawal, and Colonel Haney could not 
issue orders to execute his plan until 1350. 
Ten minutes later all troops had begun 
moving eastward. The 2d Battalion, less 
Company G, loaded on LVT's and 
DUKW's at Parai Jetty, was shuttled to 
LCM's and LCT's lying offshore, and 
moved back to Bosnek. Company L and 
part of Company I were withdrawn by the 
same method. The rest of the 1 62d Infantry, 
led by the 3d Platoon, 603d Tank Com- 
pany, moved overland through the Parai 



Defile and took up positions at Ibdi. The 1st 
Platoon, 603d Tank Company, brought up 
the rear of this echelon. The 2d Platoon, 
Company D, 641st Tank Destroyer Battal- 
ion, destroyed its mortars and ammunition 
and moved eastward with the tanks, while 
the 1st Platoon of the same mortar unit 
managed to get its weapons out. Company 
D, 542d Engineer Boat and Shore Regi- 
ment, armed with rifles and light machine 
guns, was sent up the cliff north of the 
Parai Jetty as a holding force. After the 
overland echelons of the 162d Infantry had 
moved east through the Parai Defile, the 
engineer company joined the rearguard 
tanks and mortar units on the main road. 
Close support for the withdrawal was pro- 
vided by task force artillery and by two 
amphibious tanks, an antiaircraft LCM 
(these three manned by the 542d Engineer 
Boat and Shore Regiment), and a Seventh 
Fleet rocket-equipped LCI. By nightfall the 
1st Battalion, 162d Infantry, regimental 
headquarters, the Cannon and Antitank 
Companies, a few tanks, the 205th Field 
Artillery Battalion, Company C of the 186th 
Infantry, and Company D of the 542d En- 
gineer Boat and Shore Regiment were in a 
thousand-yard-long perimeter beginning 
about 500 yards west of Ibdi. The 3d Bat- 
talion had moved on to Mandom, while the 
2d Battalion remained in the Bosnek area. 

The 162d Infantry's casualties during the 
day were 16 killed, 96 wounded, and 
3 injured. The regiment estimated that it 
had killed over 500 Japanese during the day. 
The enemy, despite his losses, followed up 
the advantage he had gained and quickly 
pushed troops forward to Parai and into the 
cliffs along the Parai Defile. This action 
clearly indicated that the Biak Detachment 



312 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



intended to take advantage of the natural 
defensive position in the Parai Defile area. 5 

Preparations for a New Attack 

Reinforcement of the HURRICANE 
Task Force 

Even before the 162d Infantry had been 
forced to retreat on 29 May, General Fuller 
had begun to feel that the situation on Biak 
was serious. He, like Colonel Haney, be- 
lieved that an advance along the coast to 
the airdromes would be impossible until the 
ridges north of Mokmer and Parai could be 
cleared of enemy troops. The task force com- 
mander further considered it impossible, be- 
cause of the danger of overextending his 
lines and thereby jeopardizing the beach- 
head, to outflank the Japanese positions 
along the ridges unless he could obtain rein- 
forcements. On 28 May General Fuller had 
therefore asked for at least one infantry reg- 
iment, one 105-mm. artillery battalion, a 
battalion of combat engineers, and another 
tank company. 6 

General Krueger had already planned to 
send two battalions of the 163d Infantry 
from the Wakde-Sarmi area to Biak to ar- 
rive at the latter island on 3 June. Now it 
was planned to speed the shipment so that 
the two battalions would reach Biak on 1 



° The foregoing estimate of Japanese losses is from 
HTF G-2 Per Rpt 3, 1800 hrs 28 May-1800 hrs 29 
May 44, in G-2 HTF, G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol II, 
Part II, G-2 Per Rpts. The figure for the 162d Inf 
is from 162d Inf, Rpt of Casualties, 27 May-17 Jul 
44, in Per Sec, 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 
Aug 44. 

8 Ltr, Comdr HTF to Comdr Alamo Force, 28 
May 44, no sub, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 29-30 May 44; Rad, HTF to Alamo, TD-20, 
28 May 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 25-28 May 44; Rad, HTF to Alamo Rear 
Hq, no number, 28 May 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G— 3 
Jnl Wakde-Biak, 25-28 May 44. 



June. They were to be shipped from Wakde- 
Sarmi by LCI and were to carry with them 
ten days' rations and three units of fire for 
all weapons. The additional units that Gen- 
eral Fuller had requested could not be dis- 
patched to Biak right away, although one 
155-mm. gun battery could be sent imme- 
diately. 7 At the same time, General Krueger 
made plans to move the 503d Parachute 
Regiment from eastern New Guinea to Hol- 
landia where it was to remain on the alert 
for movement by air to Biak in case of need. 
The Alamo Force commander also pressed 
for quick movement of 6th Division units 
from Milne Bay to Wakde-Sarmi to replace 
the elements of the 163d Infantry which 
were scheduled to leave the latter area for 
Biak. 8 

Pending the arrival of reinforcements, 
General Fuller planned to use his available 
troops to hold the west flank at Ibdi and 
expand the beachhead at Bosnek. The 162d 
Infantry was to establish a semicircular per- 
imeter beginning on the beach west of Ibdi, 
reaching north to the main ridge, and re- 
turning to the beach at the village. The 1st 
Battalion, 186th Infantry, would maintain 
a perimeter around Mandom, where Head- 
quarters, Hurricane Task Force, was lo- 
cated, while the 3d Battalion moved over 
the ridge behind Bosnek to set up defenses 
on the inland plateau. The 2d Battalion, 
with part of the 3d attached, would remain 
at the Bosnek beachhead. When the first 



' Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to HTF, WH-172, 29 May 
44, in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 25-28 
May 44; Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to HTF, WH-167, 28 
May 44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 
28-29 May 44; Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 2 
Jan 51, no sub, in OCMH files. 

8 Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to GHQ SWPA, WH-1 70, 
29 May 44, in Alamo Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde- 
Biak, 29-31 May 44; Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to Alamo 
Rear Hq, WH-1 71, 29 May 44, in Alamo Adv Hq 
G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 28-29 May 44. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



313 



two battalions of the 163d Infantry arrived, 
they would take over the 186th Infantry's 
beachhead positions, and the beachhead 
area was then to be extended to include the 
surveyed airdrome on the flats north of 
Bosnek. Upon completion of these redispo- 
sitions, the Hurricane Task Force would 
make final preparations for a new drive to 
the west. 8 

On 30 and 31 May the 162d Infantry 
patrolled around the main ridge near Ibdi 
for a route over which large bodies of troops 
might move north to the inland plateau in 
preparation for the second attack westward. 
During the course of this patrolling, it was 
discovered that the main ridge from Bosnek 
to the Parai Defile actually comprised a 
series of seven sharp coral ridges, the crests 
of which were 50-75 yards apart and sepa- 
rated by gullies 50-100 feet deep. These 
separate ridges were honeycombed with 
small natural caves, potholes, and crevices. 
There was little soil on most of the coral, 
yet the area maintained a cover of dense 
rain forest containing trees 8-20 inches thick 
and 100-150 feet high. 

The 16 2d Infantry discovered two native 
trails over the ridges. The most easterly of 
these, designated "Old Man's Trail," began 
on the beach road about 1,200 yards west 
of Mandom. It was a fairly well denned 
track which swung north over the seven 
ridges along a comparatively easy route. An- 
other track began 1,200 yards to the west, 
near Ibdi. Called "Young Man's Trail," the 
latter followed a very difficult route over 
the ridges to the inland plateau. Both of 
these trails ran through the outer defenses of 
the Ibdi Pocket, into which the Biak De- 
tachment, on 30 May, moved the 3d Bat- 



' Rad, HTF to Alamo Adv Hq, TD-77, 30 May 
44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 30 
May-1 Jun 44, 



talion, 222d Infantry. On 30 and 31 May 
the 162d Infantry's patrols along the ridges 
north of Ibdi and Mandom were harassed 
by the Japanese in the Ibdi Pocket, which 
had not yet been recognized as a major en- 
emy strong point. 10 

On 30 May the 162d Infantry located a 
water hole near the beach terminal of Old 
Man's Trail. A regimental water point es- 
tablished there was constantly harassed by 
Japanese rifle fire from the Ibdi Pocket area 
or by small enemy parties which moved 
down out of the ridges north of Ibdi and 
Mandom. The Cannon Company, 162d In- 
fantry, was therefore assigned the missions 
of clearing the enemy from the water point 
area and protecting that important installa- 
tion from Japanese attacks. 

Halfway through the Parai Defile, a lit- 
tle over a mile west of the 162d Infantry's 
main perimeter, an underground stream ran 
from the base of the cliff into Soanggarai 
Bay. At the point where the main road 
crossed the stream, the 162d Infantry set 
up an ambush to prevent Japanese infiltra- 
tion from the west along the beach. The 
ambush site was also used as a patrol base 
from which small parties reconnoitered 
along the cliffs of the Parai Defile to dis- 
cover enemy dispositions in the area. Pa- 
trolling on 30 and 31 May cost the 162d 
Infantry 6 men killed, 17 wounded, and 4 
injured. 11 

While the 162d Infantry had been meet- 
ing reverses near Mokmer, the 186th In- 
fantry had been expanding the Bosnek 
beachhead. On the 28th, patrols secured 
Opiaref (on the coast about four miles east 

10 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-1 9 Aug 44, 
p. 5 ; MID WD, Military Reports, 24, p. 14. 

" 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 44, 
pp. 5-6; 162d Inf, Rpt of Casualties, 27 May-1 7 
Jul 44, in Pers Sec, 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 
May-1 9 Aug 44. 



314 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 




THE PARA I DEFILE 



of Bosnek) where a number of well-pre- 
pared but deserted enemy positions were 
found. Other patrols were sent north to the 
surveyed drome behind Bosnek. A few Jap- 
anese were killed in that area, but no signs 
of organized resistance were found. Other 
elements of the regiment patrolled along the 
ridge north of Ibdi and Mandom, finding 
that area strongly held, while still more pa- 
trols maintained contact with the 162d In- 
fantry along the coastal road. On 29 and 30 
May the 186th Infantry continued patrol- 
ling from the Parai Defile east to Opiaref, 
from which village a motor road was dis- 
covered to run inland to the surveyed 
drome. In all this activity few contacts were 
made with organized Japanese forces, and 



during the three-day period the regiment 
lost but 2 men killed and 18 wounded. 12 

On 28 May the 205th Field Artillery Bat- 
talion and the rest of the 947th arrived on 
Biak. Elements of these two units, together 
with the 146th Field Artillery Battalion, had 
moved forward to the Ibdi area to support 

12 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, 
pp. 2-5; Company L, One Hundred and Eighty- 
Sixth Infantry, APO #41, Rec of Events, Co L, 
from 25 May 44, p. 1, in ORB RAC AGO collection 
(hereinafter cited as Co L 186th Inf, Rec of Events, 
Biak) ; Hist of Biak Campaign, Co K 186th Inf, 
pp. 1-2, in ORB RAC AGO collection (hereafter 
cited as Co K 186 th Inf Hist of Biak Campaign, and 
not to be confused with Co K 186th Inf, Rec of 
Events, 18 Apr-16 Jul 44) ; Co I 186th Inf, Hist of 
Biak Campaign, n. p., in ORB RAC AGO collec- 
tion; 1st Bn 186th Inf Hist, 27 May-2 Jun 44, pp. 
1-3. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



315 



the drive of the 162d Infantry and had been 
withdrawn to Bosnek when the latter regi- 
ment was forced back. An antiaircraft bat- 
talion (less one battery) and two batteries 
of another antiaircraft battalion also landed 
on Biak during the period. These units 
rapidly went into position to supplement the 
fires of the antiaircraft units already protect- 
ing the beachhead and dump areas. Enemy 
air raids were a daily occurrence and, al- 
though causing little damage and few cas- 
ualties, demanded augmented antiaircraft 
protection. The antiaircraft units and Sev- 
enth Fleet ships lying offshore shot down 
most of the enemy raiders. 13 

During the period in which the Hurri- 
cane Task Force was awaiting reinforce- 
ments, the Biak Detachment redisposed its 
troops to meet new Allied attacks. The 800 
well-armed men of the 3d Battalion, 222d 
Infantry, in the Ibdi Pocket, made only 
harassing attacks with small groups against 
the positions of the 162d Infantry. Colonel 
Kuzume moved most of his 1st Battalion 
back into the cave and garden area north of 
the surveyed strip, a position which the bulk 
of those units had vacated on 28 May. The 
2d Battalion was left in the Mokmer Drome 
area to reorganize after its heavy losses on 
the 28th and 29th and to hold the coastal 
approach to the airfields. Naval troops 
and a mortar company of the 2d Battalion 
manned the East Caves, north of Mokmer 
village. 14 

On 31 May the 1st and 3d Battalions, the 
Antitank Company, and Headquarters, 

a HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, p. 6 ; 
G-2 HTF, Per Rpts 1-5, 27 May-1 Jun 44, in 
G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. II, Part II, Per Rpts; 41st 
Div Arty Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 
4-6. 

" MID WD, Military Reports, 24, p. 14; G-2 
HTF, G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. I, Part II, Enemy 
Opns, pp. 7—8; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak 
(Rev), p. 62. 



1 63d Infantry, arrived on Biak. The planned 
redisposition of the Hurricane Task Force 
began immediately and was completed by 
1800. The task force was ready to execute 
a new plan of attack on 1 June. 18 

Plans for a New Attack 

Upon the arrival of the two battalions of 
the 163d Infantry on Biak, General Krueger 
radioed to General Fuller that the Hurri- 
cane Task Force was expected to regain the 
initiative with a new offensive. This offen- 
sive, said Genera] Krueger, was to be pushed 
vigorously "with a view to carrying out your 
mission effectively and expeditiously." 16 To 
execute these instructions, General Fuller 
planned a two-pronged attack. One regi- 
ment, the 186th Infantry, was to advance 
west over the inland plateau, while the 162d 
Infantry was again to attack west along the 
coast. The two battalions of the 163d In- 
fantry were to remain in reserve at the 
Bosnek area. Essentially, this was a return 
to and an enlargement of the alternative 
regimental attack plan discarded as un- 
necessary by the 162d Infantry on Z Day, 
27 May. The 162d Infantry had originally 
proposed using battalions as General Fuller 
now intended to employ regiments. 17 

On 1 June the 3d Battalion, 1 86th Infan- 
try, was to move directly over the ridge 



"Memo, CofS HTF for ACofS G-3 Alamo 
Force, no sub, 1 Jun 44, atchd to HTF G-3 Per 
Rpt 12, 29-30 May 44, in HTF Opns Rpt, 17 May- 
20 Aug 44; 163d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 31 May-20 
Aug 44, p. 2; HTF G-3 Jnl, 15 May-21 Aug 44. 

" Rad, Alamo Adv Hq to HTF, WH-39, 1 Jun 
44, in Alamo Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 1-3 
Jun 44. 

"Memo, CofS HTF for ACofS G-3 Alamo 
Force, 1 Jun 44; 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May- 
19 Aug 44, pp. 1-3; 162d Inf FO 1, 15 May 44, 
atchd to 16 2d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-1 9 Aug 
44; Plan of HTF, 1 Jun 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 28 
May 44. 



316 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



behind Bosnek to the surveyed airdrome. 
There it would be joined by the 2d Battal- 
ion, which was to advance west along the 
inland road from Opiaref, and by the 1st 
Battalion on the morning of 2 June. Five 
tanks of the 603d Tank Company, one pla- 
toon of the 1 1 6th Engineers, and the 1 2th 
Portable Surgical Hospital were to be at- 
tached to the regiment. Close support would 
be provided by the 121st Field Artillery Bat- 
talion (75-mm. pack howitzer), which was 
to follow the 186th Infantry to the surveyed 
airfield area. 

While the 186th Infantry moved into 
position, the 162d Infantry was to patrol 
west along the coastal road and north into 
the ridges behind Ibdi and Mandom. On 
2 June the 2d Battalion, 162d Infantry, 
would move north across the ridge at Ibdi 
and then west along the inland plateau and 
ridges, maintaining contact with the 186th 
Infantry. The rest of the regiment was to 
push through the Parai Defile again in prep- 
aration for another concerted attack toward 
Mokmer Drome. The 1 62d Infantry's oper- 
ations were to be supported by Company C, 
116th Engineers; seven tanks of the 603d 
Tank Company; the 146th and 947th Field 
Artillery Battalions; Company D, 641st 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, with 4.2-inch 
mortars; 1 antiaircraft LCM; two LVT 
(A)'s, with 37-mm. guns; and two rocket- 
equipped LCV's and one LCI(G). The 
205th Field Artillery Battalion and offshore 
destroyers were to be in general support for 
both regiments. 

The 186th Infantry was to sweep the in- 
land plateau and, securing a route over the 
main ridge north of Mokmer village, clear 
the high ground north and northeast of 
Mokmer Drome. The 2d Battalion, 162d 
Infantry, would seize part of the high 



ground northeast of the airfield. When the 
other two battalions of the latter regiment, 
attacking westward along the shore south 
of the ridge, began approaching Mokmer 
Drome, the 2d would aid them in seizing the 
airstrip. The two battalions of the 163d In- 
fantry were to protect the beachhead and 
supply installations and patrol behind the 
186th Infantry. 18 

The Seizure of Mokmer Drome 
Action at the Surveyed Strip 

At 0830 on 1 June the 3d Battalion, 
186th Infantry, left its bivouac area near 
Bosnek and marched north over the coastal 
ridge. 19 By 1100 the unit had reached the 
west end of the surveyed strip and had set 
up a defensive perimeter. Company K, to- 
gether with two guns and crews from the 
Antitank Company, established defenses at 
a trail crossing some 400 yards northwest of 
the rest of the battalion. The 2d Battalion 
left Opiaref about 0800 and by 1100 was 
preparing positions near the center of the 
surveyed airfield. Company F and the Can- 
non Company arrived from Opiaref, where 



"Memo, CofS HTF for ACofS G-3 Alamo 
Force, 1 Jun 44: 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May- 

19 Aug 44, pp. 5-6; 162d Inf FO 1, 15 May 44, 
atchd to 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 15 May-19 Aug 
44; Plan of HTF, 1 Jun 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 
28 May 44. 

10 This subsection is based principally on : 3d Bn 
186th Inf Jnl, 14 May-24 Oct 44, in ORB RAC 
AGO collection; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 
May-19 Aug 44, pp. 6-8; 186th Inf Jnl, 27 May- 

20 Aug 44; Co K 186th Inf, Hist of Biak Cam- 
paign; 603d Tank Co Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 2-3; 
121st FA Bn Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 2-3; 146th FA 
Bn Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 14-15; MID WD, Military 
Reports, 24, p., 15; G-2 HTF, Per Rpts 6-9, 31 
May-4 Jun 44, in G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. II, Part 
II, Per Rpts; Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 5-7; 2d 
Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 62, 
66-67. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



317 



they had remained until relieved by the 
163d Infantry late in the afternoon. 

The Cannon Company, operating as a 
rifle unit, protected the 121st Field Artillery 
Battalion, which had also displaced forward 
to the surveyed drome. The 1st Platoon, 
603d Tank Company, joined the two bat- 
talions of the 186th Infantry at the airstrip 
about 1530. All these units used the road 
which ran east and west along the inland 
plateau on the north side of the surveyed 
strip. Company B, 1 16th Engineers, worked 
all day to repair the road from Opiaref to 
the forward units. By 1630 the most urgent 
repairs had been made, and wheeled vehi- 
cles could laboriously make their way east 
along the coast from Bosnek, over the ridge 
at Opiaref, and thence west to the surveyed 
area. 

The Biak Detachment had no intention 
of allowing the 186th Infantry to advance 
unopposed and at 1330 had sent about 
twenty-five men of the 1st Battalion, 222d 
Infantry, against Company K. These Japa- 
nese, who were supported by machine guns 
and mortars emplaced northwest of the trail 
crossing, continued attacks until 1700, when 
a platoon of Company K, by a flanking 
movement, forced their withdrawal north- 
ward. Company K and two platoons of the 
Antitank Company remained at the trail 
crossing for the night. Company I was 
moved forward to K's left and left rear, and 
Company L extended K's perimeter east 
along the main road toward the surveyed 
drome. Battalion headquarters and Com- 
pany M stayed near the strip's western end. 
The 1 2 1st Field Artillery Battalion, the Can- 
non Company, the 2d Battalion, regimental 
headquarters, the attached engineers, and 
the tanks remained near the center of the 
airfield. 



The first part of the night passed without 
incident, but at 0330 the entire area held 
by the 3d Battalion, 186th Infantry, flamed 
into action. About a company and a half of 
the 1st Battalion, 222d Infantry, moved 
from the south against the semicircular per- 
imeter held by Companies I, K, and L, hav- 
ing outflanked the 3d Battalion on the west. 
Simultaneously, other elements of the 1st 
Battalion attacked from the northwest, at- 
tempting to drive a wedge between Com- 
panies L and K. By rapid adjustment of its 
lines, the 3d Battalion trapped most of the 
enemy group which had attacked from the 
south. Under the support of mortar and 
machine gun fire from both the northwest 
and southwest, the encircled Japanese des- 
perately tried to fight their way north. Four 
hours of confused hand-to-hand fighting, 
marked by the use of bayonets, machetes, 
and grenades, ensued. At daylight a count 
revealed that 86 dead Japanese were within 
and around the 3d Battalion's perimeter. 
The dead included the commander of the 
1st Battalion, 222d Infantry. Losses to the 
American unit (including attached Anti- 
tank Company men) were 3 men killed and 
8 wounded. 

Despite the confusion resulting from the 
night action, the 186th Infantry was ready 
to resume the westward advance by 0900 
on 2 June. The 1st and 3d Battalions, sup- 
ported by five tanks and an antitank pla- 
toon, were to advance abreast, while the 2d 
protected the right flank by patrolling north 
of the main road. The 121st Field Artillery 
Battalion was to provide continuous close 
support and was to displace forward with 
the infantry. Neither artillery nor air bom- 
bardment seems to have been provided for 
or delivered prior to the attack. However, 
both the 121st and 146th Field Artillery 



318 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Battalions (the latter from emplacements 
south of the ridge, near Bosnek) were regis- 
tered on targets north and west of the 1 86th 
Infantry. Air support was available from 
Wakde Island upon call. 

The speed of the advance was contingent 
upon the arrival of water from Bosnek and 
upon improvements which engineers could 
make on the supply road west of the sur- 
veyed drome. The inland plateau was de- 
void of water, and extensive repairs were 
necessary before the road could bear wheeled 
vehicles. Tentatively, the objective for 2 
June was set at a point on the road 5,000 
yards west of the surveyed strip. Upon 
reaching this point, the 186th Infantry 
would be about 1,500 yards north of the 
3d Battalion, 222d Infantry, which was lo- 
cated in the Ibdi Pocket. 

West Toward the Airdromes 

The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry (less 
Company A, attached to the 1 6 2d Infantry ) 
broke camp at its beach defense area at 
0800 on 2 June and moved north over the 
ridge to join the rest of the regiment. 20 The 



M Information in this subsection is from: 186th 
Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44, pp. 8-12; 
Newman Notes; 3d Bn 186th Inf Jnl, 14 May-24 
Oct 44; 186th Inf Jnl, 27 May-20 Aug 44; Co K 
186th Inf, Hist of Biak Campaign; 603d Tank Co 
Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 2-3 ; 162d Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 
15 May-19 Aug 44, pp. 5-6; 162d Inf Jnl, 22 May- 
19 Aug 44; Co B 186th Inf, Rec of Events, Apr- 
Jul 44, n. p., in ORB RAC AGO collection; HTF 
G-3 Jnl, 15 May-21 Aug 44; 186th Inf, S-3 Sit 
Overlays, 2-8 Jun 44, in Annex 14 to 186th Inf 
Opns Rpt Biak, 27 May-19 Aug 44; 121st FA Bn 
Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 3^; 146th FA Opns Rpt Biak, 
pp. 15-16; 116th Engrs S-3 Activities, Biak, pp. 
2-3, in 116th Engrs Opns Rpt Biak, Ch. Ill; HTF 
Opns Rpt Biak, 17 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 8-9; MID 
WD, Military Reports, 24, p. 15; G-2 HTF Per 
Rpts 8-14, 2-9 Jun 44, in G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. 
II, Part II, Per Rpts; Opns of Yuki Group, pp. 
6-9; 2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), 
pp. 67-71. 



1st and 3d Battalions then advanced with 
two companies abreast against scattered but 
determined opposition from elements of the 
1st Battalion, 222d Infantry. Small enemy 
patrols aimed machine gun and rifle fire at 
the advancing American units and held 
their positions until killed or dispersed by 
tank or artillery fire. Most of the enemy 
parties were located on the north flank and 
apparently many of them had been driven 
westward out of the cave and garden area 
north of the surveyed drome by fire from 
the 121st Field Artillery Battalion, which 
destroyed Biak Detachment headquarters 
installations in that area. By nightfall the 
186th Infantry had killed 96 Japanese and 
had itself lost 6 men killed and 10 wounded. 
The unit halted shortly after 1600 and 
began digging in at a point about 600 yards 
northeast of the day's objective. The ad- 
vance had carried the regiment west until 
it was almost abreast and north of the 162d 
Infantry, at the Ibdi Pocket. 

The latter regiment had attempted to 
move west along the coast from Ibdi during 
the day. The 2d Battalion had been dis- 
patched on 1 June into the ridges north of 
Ibdi with orders to clear Young Man's Trail 
and, maintaining contact with the 186th 
Infantry, advance west along the ridges to- 
ward Mokmer Drome. Companies E and G 
had started over the trail on 1 June and by 
1300 had reached the crest of the third of 
the seven parallel ridges which formed the 
main ridge above Ibdi. Further progress 
during the afternoon was rendered nearly 
impossible, by increasingly rough terrain and 
intensifying Japanese small arms fire, which 
kept the companies pinned down. Company 
E remained on the third ridge for the night 
and set up an outpost at the base of the 
fourth. The company had bypassed a few 
small parties of Japanese, while other en- 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



319 



emy troops moved around its flanks to cut 
the trail south of the third ridge. To protect 
the line of communications over the Young 
Man's Trail, Company G moved its for- 
ward elements back to the first ridge, and 
Company F pushed up that ridge to G's 
right. Company E was left isolated for the 
night. 

The advance northward had been re- 
sumed on 2 June against increasingly strong 
opposition from the 3d Battalion, 222d In- 
fantry, and various service units armed as 
infantry. Communications between Com- 
pany E and other elements of the 2d Bat- 
talion were re-established early in the morn- 
ing, and the company had pushed on to the 
crest of the fifth ridge by 0930. There the 
unit was pinned down by enemy fire from 
both flanks. Company F was ordered for- 
ward to E's right, and arrived on the fifth 
ridge about 1150. Thereafter, better prog- 
ress was made as the combined fire power 
of the two rifle companies kept most of the 
Japanese under cover. In the afternoon 
Company G moved forward also and the 
three rifle companies pushed on over the 
seventh ridge, bypassing numerous enemy 
strong points, to establish contact at 1500 
with Company E, 186th Infantry, on the 
inland plateau. 

By the time this contact was made, two 
facts had become obvious. First, it was evi- 
dent that only by a long series of laborious 
small unit infantry assaults could the Japa- 
nese be cleared from the Ibdi Pocket, which 
was now recognized by the Hurricane Task 
Force as a major enemy strong point. Sec- 
ond, the terrain along the main ridge had 
been found so rugged that it was evident 
that no large body of troops could move 
west along it as long as the Japanese retained 
any control of the Ibdi Pocket. Therefore 
the 2d Battalion (less Company H) was at- 



tached to the 186th Infantry for use as the 
commander of that regiment saw fit. Com- 
pany H remained south of the ridge. 

The addition of the 2d Battalion, 162d 
Infantry, to the 186th Infantry helped to 
complicate the supply problems of the troops 
on the plateau. No water had yet been found 
inland. Heat and humidity were intense, and 
thick scrub growth, about twelve feet high, 
stopped any breezes. Despite the best efforts 
of Company B, 1 16th Engineers, the supply 
road could not be repaired fast enough to 
keep pace with the advancing infantrymen. 
Water had to be brought around from Bos- 
nek via Opiaref to the forward units, and 
there were not enough water trailers nor 
five-gallon cans available to supply all the 
water needed. At night each man received 
only one canteen of water for the next day, 
an inadequate amount under the conditions 
which prevailed inland. The water situation 
and the necessity for hauling all other sup- 
plies north through Opiaref did more to de- 
lay the 186th Infantry's progress westward 
than did the opposition of the 1st Battalion, 
222d Infantry. 

The advance was to be resumed at 0730 
on 3 June, the first objective being the point 
at which the main ridge left the coast and 
turned inland near Mokmer village. To 
gain this point, which lay about three miles 
west-southwest of the night bivouac, three 
battalions were to advance along a front 900 
yards wide, with the 1st Battalion, 186th 
Infantry, on the north, the 3d in the center, 
and the 2d Battalion, 162d Infantry, on 
the south. The latter unit was to look for 
trails over the ridge to Parai and was to be 
ready to cross the ridge to the south upon 
order from Colonel Newman. The 2d Bat- 
talion, 186th Infantry (less Company F), 
was to assist the engineers and the 41st 
Quartermaster Company to move supplies 



320 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



forward. Company F was to be regimental 
reserve. 

The reinforced regiment moved off on 
schedule, but progress was painfully slow. 
The road over the plateau deteriorated into 
a mere footpath, the high scrub growth lim- 
ited visibility to ten yards, and no land- 
marks, not even the main ridge along the 
coast, could be seen from the flat inland 
plain. Again, no water could be found, al- 
though the engineers tried blasting for wells. 
The 2d Battalion, 186th Infantry, brought a 
few supplies forward by hand, and the engi- 
neers worked feverishly to extend the road 
behind the forward troops so that wheeled 
vehicles could be sent westward: The 2d 
Battalion, 162d Infantry, was unable to find 
any trails over the ridge to the south. Neither 
that unit nor the 186th Infantry suffered 
any battle casualties during the day. The 1st 
Battalion, 222d Infantry, had disappeared. 
Only three Japanese were killed and but few 
more had been sighted. At 1500 all units 
began digging in at a point a good half mile 
short of their objective. 

General Fuller instructed the 186th In- 
fantry to send one battalion over the main 
ridge between Mokmer and Parai on 4 June. 
The battalion, once over the ridge, was to 
advance east along the coastal road to take 
from the rear enemy positions which had 
been holding up the 162d Infantry's ad- 
vance westward from Ibdi. Colonel New- 
man replied that all trails leading south 
from his regiment's night position had been 
thoroughly investigated and that none led 
over the main ridge, the north side of which 
was precipitous and thus impossible for a 
large body of men to scale. The regimental 
commander's own plan was to move west 
and slightly north from his night position 
to find a crossing over the main ridge at 
some point northeast of Mokmer Drome. 



One element of his command he planned to 
send southwest to the bend of the main 
ridge behind Mokmer village, whence it was 
to patrol northwest along the ridge toward 
the rest of the regiment. 

Before this disagreement was resolved, 
General Fuller was prompted to change his 
orders on the basis of information received 
from Alamo Force and aerial reconnais- 
sance indicating that the Japanese were 
about to attack Biak from the sea. The night 
of 3 — 4r June proved quiet in the 186th In- 
fantry's area, but the next morning's ad- 
vance was delayed until supplies and water 
arrived from Bosnek. Then, about 1000, 
just as the regiment was starting forward, 
General Fuller instructed it to hold its po- 
sitions pending the outcome of the possible 
Japanese attack. The 1 86th Infantry there- 
fore limited its operations to patrolling 
during which no enemy troops were located. 

Colonel Newman's plan for the 5th of 
June entailed sending three battalions for- 
ward toward the north-south section of the 
main ridge northwest of Mokmer village. 
The three units were to halt about 500 yards 
from the base of the ridge while one com- 
pany pushed on to find a route up the high 
ground. As soon as the company's mission 
was accomplished, a battalion was to follow 
it to the ridge top and secure the crossing 
point. From the crossing, patrols were to be 
sent north and south along the main ridge. 
The 2d Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to re- 
main in reserve, ready to reinforce any of 
the three leading battalions or to bring sup- 
plies forward. The 1 2 1st Field Artillery Bat- 
talion, which had already displaced west- 
ward once from the surveyed drome, was to 
move forward again on the 5th. Late at 
night on 4 June, the threat of Japanese at- 
tack from the sea having passed, the G— 3 
Section of Headquarters, Hurricane Task 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



321 



Force, gave Colonel Newman permission to 
execute his plan. 

Warned by the regimental commander 
that it was important to secure a foothold on 
the ridge before the Japanese could deny it 
to the 1 86th Infantry, the three assault bat- 
talions started westward about 0800 on 5 
June. Lack of water again slowed the ad- 
vance. No water had been received in the 
forward area since the morning of the 4th, 
and Colonel Newman had ordered the 
troops westward against the advice of his 
staff and battalion commanders. About 
noon, however, a heavy rain fell. The regi- 
mental commander ordered all troops to 
halt, catch the rain in ponchos, and fill their 
canteens. "Had it not been for this lucky 
break, we would undoubtedly have had to 
halt in midafternoon." 21 As events turned 
out, no Japanese opposition was encoun- 
tered, and by 1500 the 3d Battalion, 186th 
Infantry, was within 500 yards of the main 
ridge. The 1st Platoon of Company K was 
sent forward and found a rough approach 
to the ridge top. Following this route, the 
entire 3d Battalion moved up the ridge and 
dug in for the night. Through the thick 
jungle growth atop the ridge, the men of 
the 3d Battalion could catch occasional 
glimpses of Mokmer Drome, 2,500 yards to 
the southwest. 

The 2d Battalion, 186th Infantry (less 
Companies F and G), moved up to the base 
of the ridge below the 3d Battalion to pro- 
tect the latter's rear. The 1st Battalion biv- 
ouacked near the base of the ridge about 700 
yards south of the 2d, while the 2d Battal- 
ion, 162d Infantry, remained in the flats 700 
yards to the southeast. Company F, 186th 
Infantry, was placed astride the supply 
road, 1,000 yards east of the rest of the 2d 
Battalion, in order to protect the line of 

!1 Newman Notes, 



communications. Company B, 116th Engi- 
neers, harassed by occasional Japanese rifle 
fire but protected by Company G, 186th In- 
fantry, labored far into the night to extend 
the supply road westward to each battalion 
perimeter. The 121st Field Artillery moved 
forward again during the afternoon and 
took up new firing positions about 3,500 
yards east of the ridge. 

To the Beach 

Before his men could start the planned 
ridge-clearing maneuvers on the morning of 
6 June, Colonel Newman received a tele- 
phone call from General Fuller which forced 
the 186th Infantry commander to change 
his plans. 22 The task force commander or- 
dered the 186th Infantry to seize Mokmer 
Drome and a beachhead on the coast di- 
rectly south of that strip. Neither Colonel 
Newman nor the Assistant Division Com- 
mander, Brig. Gen. Jens A. Doe, liked this 
plan, for they considered it more important 
to secure the dominating terrain north and 
northwest of the airfield before seizing the 
strip. Colonel Newman put it later: "I ob- 
jected very strenuously to this plan and told 
[General Fuller] of my prior planning. How- 
ever, I was overruled." But General Fuller 
was anxious to seize at least one of the air- 
strips — and according to plans Mokmer 
Drome was to be the first developed — as 
soon as possible and, in fact, he was under 

22 Information in this and the following subsec- 
tions is from : Newman Notes ; HTF Opns Rpt Biak, 
17 May-20 Aug 44, pp. 8-10; HTF G-3 Jnl, 15 
May-21 Aug 44; 186th Inf Opns Rpt Biak, 27 
May-19 Aug 44, pp. 11-18; 186th Inf Jnl, 27 May- 
20 Aug 44; 3d Bn 186th Inf Jnl, 14 May-24 Oct 
44; Co K 186th Inf, Hist of Biak Campaign; 603d 
Tank Co Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 3-4; 121st FA Bn 
Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 3-5; 146th FA Bn Opns Rpt 
Biak, pp. 16-19; 542d EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, 
pp. 8-11 ; 41st Div Arty Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 9-11 ; 
2d Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 71-73. 



322 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



pressure from General Krueger to do so. 
His orders stood. 23 

The 186th Infantry's right flank was to 
be protected during the move to the airfields 
by Fifth Air Force aircraft strikes against 
the Borokoe Drome area, while the 163d In- 
fantry was to safeguard the line of commu- 
nications back through the inland flats. As 
soon as the 186th Infantry secured a beach- 
head at Mokmer Drome, tanks and general 
supplies would be sent overwater from Bos- 
nek in preparation for subsequent advances 
to Borokoe and Sorido Dromes. 

Throughout the morning of 6 June the 
186th Infantry directed most of its efforts 
to bringing supplies up to the forward units. 
Almost the entire 2d Battalion was engaged 
in hand-carrying supplies to the 3d Battal- 
ion atop the ridge, while the latter unit sent 
patrols toward Mokmer Drome seeking 
good routes of approach to that objective. 
About noon Colonel Newman reported to 
task force headquarters that no good route 
had been found and that supplies, especially 
the ever-needed water, had not been brought 
forward in sufficient quantities to allow a 
regimental attack to be launched that day, 
and he therefore recommended that the at- 
tack be postponed until 7 June. General 
Fuller approved this suggestion. 

About 1430 on 6 June, 3d Battalion pa- 
trols finally found a reasonably good trail 
leading toward Mokmer Drome and, about 
the same time, water arrived at the forward 
area after the long trip overland from Bos- 
nek. At 1500 the 3d Battalion, followed by 
the 1st, began moving down the west side 
of the main ridge to take up positions along 



"Newman Notes; Ltr, Gen Doe [ex-ADC 41st 
Div] to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, no sub, in OCMH 
files; Ltr, Krueger to Ward, 2 Jan 51, no sub, in 
OCMH files. The quotation is from the Newman 
Notes. 



a line of departure for the next morning's 
attack. The 2d Battalion, 162d Infantry, 
was to follow the first two closely, and the 
2d Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to bring 
up the rear, after carrying supplies to the 
top of the ridge. The Cannon, Service, and 
Headquarters Companies were to aid the 2d 
Battalion and were to move with it to Mok- 
mer Drome. The 12th Portable Surgical 
Hospital (which had been accompanying 
the 186th Infantry), the Antitank Com- 
pany, the 121st Field Artillery Battalion, 
and the regimental trains were to move back 
to Bosnek. Thence they were to move either 
along the coastal road or overwater to re- 
join the regiment at Mokmer Drome. 

In preparation for the infantry attack on 
7 June, a thirty-minute artillery concen- 
tration began at 0700 that morning. The 
146th, 205th, and 947th Field Artillery 
Battalions, from positions along the coast to 
the east, were registered on targets in the 
airfield area ready to support the advance, 
but most of the firing was undertaken by 
the 121st Field Artillery from its location 
behind the 186th Infantry. While the artil- 
lery fired on Mokmer Drome and along the 
low ridge between that field and the 186th 
Infantry, Fifth Air Force bombers attacked 
the Borokoe Drome area and also struck 
some targets along the low ridge. The two 
assault battalions jumped off at 0730, and 
by 0850 both had crossed Mokmer Drome 
and had reached the beach. Neither had en- 
countered any resistance. The 2d Battalion 
of the 162d Infantry arrived at the shore 
about 0930. The 2d Battalion, 186th In- 
fantry, together with the Cannon, Service, 
and Headquarters Companies of the same 
regiment, all hand-carrying supplies and 
water, began moving south from their night 
positions at 0915. All closed at the beach 
before noon. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



323 



When, on 5 June, the 186th Infantry had 
reached the crest of the main coastal ridge, 
it had been on the left rear of the Japanese 
defenses on the low ridge and terraces above 
Mokmer Drome. Thus, the regiment had 
been in a favorable position to take these 
defenses from the rear. But in its move to 
the airfield, the 186th Infantry had by- 
passed the Biak Detachment's principal de- 
fensive positions. The bypassing had not 
been intentional. Colonel Newman had in- 
structed both leading battalions to halt on 
the low ridge, reconnoiter along it in both 
directions, and report on Japanese defenses 
before moving on. According to Colonel 
Newman: "I received a negative report 
from both [battalions], and ordered the 
movement to the airdrome. Evidently, the 
right [battalion had] failed in this patrolling 
effort." ** 

As a result of the failure of reconnaissance 
on 6 and 7 June to discover the Japanese 
positions, the 186th Infantry had lost a 
grand opportunity to outflank the Japanese. 
Indeed, had even one battalion halted on the 
low ridge, the story of later operations in the 
Mokmer Drome area would probably have 
been far different. 48 Instead, when it reached 
the beach on the 7th and turned around, 
the 186th Infantry found itself facing the 
Biak Detachment's strongest defenses. As 
fate would have it, the attacker had placed 
himself where the defender most wanted 
him to be. This was soon to become obvious. 

No fire had been received by the 186th 
Infantry from the Japanese ridge and ter- 
race positions during the advance south to 
the beach, nor had any fire come from the 
Japanese in the East Caves area, the source 
of trouble to the 162d Infantry during the 
first, abortive attempt to seize Mokmer 

• u Newman Notes. 

" Ltr, Gen Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50. 



Drome. But suddenly, about 0945 on the 
7th, the entire Mokmer Drome area was 
subjected to Japanese artillery, antiaircraft, 
mortar, and automatic weapons fire from 
the northwest, north, northeast, and east. 
This fire, coming from emplacements which 
were well-camouflaged, concealed in dense 
scrub growth, or protected in defilade or 
caves, continued for about four hours. Al- 
most all the Hurricane Task Force's artil- 
lery was called upon to fire on known or 
suspected Japanese installations in the area, 
while the 186th Infantry's mortars blasted 
away whenever a Japanese gun flash dis- 
closed the location of a position. Japanese 
mortar and 20-mm. fire from the area of the 
East Caves was especially troublesome, for 
the task force's artillery could not reach 
those weapons. From the northwest, along 
the low ridge beyond the West Caves, came 
75-mm. artillery or dual-purpose antiair- 
craft artillery fire, the point of origin of 
which could not be located. 

The 121st Field Artillery fired over 2,000 
rounds during the 7th, and it adjusted fire 
for the 205th and 947th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions, also engaged in the counterbattery 
fire. Late in the afternoon it was estimated 
that the Japanese fire had been decreased 
by about 40 percent. At least six enemy gun 
positions had been silenced and mortar fire 
had become lighter. Before dark the Japa- 
nese, apparently feeling that they had re- 
ceived enough counterfire, began moving to 
new locations most of the mobile weapons 
they had emplaced north of the airdrome. 
Indications were that Hurricane Task 
Force artillery would probably be called 
upon for heavy concentrations again on 
the 8th. 

Meanwhile, the 186th Infantry had com- 
pleted occupation of the airdrome area and 
had organized the beachhead, flushing a 



324 



THE APPROACH TO THE PHILIPPINES 



few Japanese from small caves along the 
shore line. It had been planned that the 2d 
Battalion, 162d Infantry, would push east 
from the airfields to aid its parent regiment 
to eliminate Japanese resistance at the Parai 
Defile. However, Japanese in the East Caves 
covered the road from Mokmer Drome to 
Parai with automatic weapons fire. Colonel 
Newman therefore recommended to Head- 
quarters, Hurricane Task Force, that the 
162d Infantry's battalion remain in place 
until this fire could be reduced. He pointed 
out, moreover, that the 186th Infantry did 
not have enough rations or ammunition to 
supply such an attack. General Fuller ap- 
proved this recommendation and the bat- 
talion remained at the Mokmer Drome 
beachhead for the night. 

By evening of the 7th, it had become im- 
practicable to supply the 186th Infantry 
over the inland plateau road, which ended 
on the east side of the main ridge. From 
that point all supplies would have to be 
hand-carried to Mokmer Drome, and sup- 
ply parties would be endangered by Japa- 
nese patrols, a few of which moved in 
behind the 186th Infantry as the regiment 
moved to the beach. Overwater supply ap- 
peared easier, and the main supply line was 
therefore changed to a water route which 
ran from Bosnek to the village of Sboeria, 
located on the beach south of Mokmer 
Drome. 

The first attempt to run supplies over this 
water route was undertaken during the late 
afternoon of 7 June by three LCM's and a 
few LCV's, each of the former carrying a 
Sherman tank. These craft were supported 
by an antiaircraft LCM and an LCS, and 
all were manned by the 542d Engineer 
Boat and Shore Regiment. As the first 
boats approached the shore they were 



greeted by machine gun and rifle fire from 
Japanese whom the 186th Infantry had not 
yet cleaned out of caves along the water 
line in front of Mokmer Drome. The small 
craft returned the fire, but were finally 
forced to withdraw. The 186th Infantry, 
according to Colonel Newman, was "glad 
to see them withdraw since they had our 
troops running for cover." 26 

At 1400 another attempt was made to 
land supplies at Sboeria. The three LCM's 
managed to put their tanks ashore in the 
face of continuing Japanese fire, but accom- 
panying LCT's were driven off by Japanese 
artillery. Two of the LCM's were so dam- 
aged by enemy fire that they could not fully 
retract their ramps and had to proceed the 
nine and a half miles back to Bosnek in 
reverse. Plans were made to effect all de- 
livery of supplies and evacuation of cas- 
ualties at night until the enemy fire on the 
Sboeria beachhead could be neutralized. 

The tanks which had been landed lum- 
bered along the shore road fronting Mok- 
mer Drome, destroying several small bun- 
kers along the beach. Then they wheeled 
toward the low ridge north of the airfield, 
taking under fire a Japanese 75-mm. moun- 
tain gun and a 20-mm. piece which had 
opposed their landing. These two weapons 
were silenced. Moving cautiously north- 
westward from the field along a road which 
crossed the low ridge, the tanks destroyed 
two large pillboxes. By the time this oper- 
ation was completed, dusk was approaching, 
and the tanks returned to the beach to biv- 
ouac with the 186th Infantry. 

The regiment dug in along a semicircular 
perimeter. The 3d Battalion was on the 
western edge of Sboeria, extending from the 

28 Newman Notes. 



WEST TO MOKMER DROME 



325 



beach to the south side of the airfield, while 
the 1st Battalion occupied a similar line east 
of Sboeria. The 2d Battalion, 186th Infan- 
try, and the 2d Battalion, 162d Infantry, 
were between the first two, but on the north 
side of the field. As night fell, the enemy fire 
slackened and a count could be made of 
casualties. It was found that the day's oper- 
ations had cost 14 men killed and 68 
wounded, almost all as a result of Japanese 
artillery and mortar fire. 

During the night of 7-8 June more badly 
needed supplies were brought forward to 
Sboeria by small craft of the 542d Engineer 
Boat and Shore Regiment in an operation 
concerning which widely different stories are 
told. According to the engineers' reports, no 
one from the 186th Infantry was on hand 
at the beach when, about 2330, a convoy 
of 1 LCS, 14 LCV's, and 8 LVT's arrived 
at Sboeria. After waiting almost half an 
hour for unloading aid, the engineers trans- 
ferred the LCV cargo to LVT's which 
pushed ashore and finally found some repre- 
sentatives of the 1 86th Infantry, who were 
eagerly awaiting the rations and ammuni- 
tion. 27 



The commander of the 186th Infantry 
tells a different tale : 

I personally was at the beach, with my S-4. 
. . . We had given Division Headquarters 
flashlight recognition signals, but evidently 
these were probably not communicated to the 
boat group commander. . . . They [the boats] 
did not reply to our signals and proceeded on 
down the coast before returning and sending 
in the LVTs. Failure to properly coordinate 
signals and overcaution on the part of the boat 
commanders was apparently responsible. ... 28 

Whatever the case, the welcome supplies 
were put ashore, and the LVT's returned to 
Bosnek with the most seriously wounded 
men of the 186th Infantry. 

Thus, by daybreak on 8 June, the 186th 
Infantry was firmly established on Mok- 
mer Drome, and, despite difficulties inci- 
dent to moving supplies forward by water 
from Bosnek, it was obvious that the regi- 
ment could be supplied. The first of the 
three Japanese airfields on the southeast 
shore of Biak had been seized, but the area 
north of the airfield had not yet been se- 
cured. Until it was, Mokmer Drome could 
not be repaired and Allied planes could not 
use the field. 



" 542d EB&SR Opns Rpt Biak, pp. 10-1 1. 



Newman Notes. 



CHAPTER XIV 



Frustration at Mokmer Drome 



Reinforcements for the 186th Infantry 

Japanese Reactions to the 
Westward Advance 

During its advance west from the sur- 
veyed drome, the 186th Infantry had met 
little opposition after 2 June. 1 While it is in- 
conceivable that the Biak Detachment had 
not anticipated the pos